ROCKFORD, Ill. — A former pediatric nurse in Illinois has filed a complaint with the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) after she felt forced out of her job when her employer allegedly told her that she could not keep her position if she wouldn’t be willing to provide referrals for abortions and morning-after pills.
Sandra Rojas had been working for the Winnebago County Health Department for 18 years, when in 2015, she was informed that her unit was being merged with women’s health under the new administration. According to Rojas, nurses were required to be trained in referring women for abortions, and helping them obtain Plan B.
When Rojas advised that the mandate conflicted with her religious convictions, she says that she was told that she could not work at the department without the training, and was offered a temporary job as a food inspector.
“The new administrator basically showed her the door, saying, ‘Unless you willing to do this and participate, you can’t work here,'” attorney Noel Sterett of the law firm Mauck & Baker told OneNewsNow.
Rojas refused the food inspector position and resigned from her job in 2015. She filed a lawsuit against her former employer a year later, seeking damages under the Illinois Health Care Right of Conscience Act.
“Nursing is more than just a job; it is a noble calling to protect life and do no harm,” Rojas, a Roman Catholic, told reporters at the time. “There is something terribly wrong when you are forced out of your job on account of your commitment to protect life.”
The Winnebago County Health Department disputes one of the facts in the lawsuit, as it claimed in legal documents that Rojas had been offered a full-time job as a nurse at River Bluff Nursing Home, but rather chose to resign. Rojas now works at Walter Lawson Children’s Home in Loves Park.
Sterett told the Rockford Register Star that a complaint has also now been filed with HHS so that the department can “decide whether to open an investigation.”
“Federal law prohibits government officials from discriminating against medical professionals who cannot in good conscience participate in abortion,” he said in a statement on Jan. 16. “Those that compel pro-life doctors and nurses to act contrary to their conscience should not qualify for federal funds. We have filed this complaint to inform the HHS of what is happening so that it can take action.”
“Pro-life nurses shouldn’t be forced to perform or assist in abortion procedures,” also remarked Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) Legal Counsel Denise Harle, who is serving as co-counsel in the case. “It’s illegal, unethical, and a violation of Rojas’ rights of conscience … to require her to participate in the taking of an innocent life. An individual’s conscience and commitment to the Hippocratic Oath to ‘do no harm’ is often what draws health care workers into the medical field. We’re hopeful that the HHS will quickly resolve this injustice.”
As previously reported, HHS announced on Thursday that it is creating a new Office of Civil Rights division focused on protecting the right of conscience and religious freedom.
“The Conscience and Religious Freedom Division has been established to restore federal enforcement of our nation’s laws that protect the fundamental and unalienable rights of conscience and religious freedom,” the department said in a statement.