US dismisses suit against Vermont hospital over abortions

Northeast

BURLINGTON, Vt. (AP) — The U.S. Justice Department has dismissed a lawsuit against the University of Vermont Medical Center alleging it forced a nurse to participate in an abortion procedure she objected to on religious grounds.

The one-page notice filed by the Justice Department in U.S. District Court in Burlington on Friday gave no reason for its decision. The action was first reported by the online news site VTDigger.org.

The lawsuit, filed last December in the waning days of former President Donald Trump’s administration, alleged the Burlington hospital violated the “ Church Amendments,” which prevent hospitals from discriminating against health care workers who refuse to perform or assist with abortions.

In a Monday statement, UVM Medical Center CEO Dr. Steve Leffler said officials were pleased by the Justice Department’s decision.

“We are committed to meeting the medical needs of our patients, while respecting the religious and moral beliefs of our employees,” Leffler said in a statement. “Our opt-out policies and practices for employees who object to participating in certain medical procedures, including abortion, are strong and in full compliance with federal law, and we have only strengthened them over the past two years.”

In August 2019, the Department of Health and Human Services’ Office for Civil Rights filed a notice of violation against the hospital alleging it had forced a nurse to participate in an abortion against her will.

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At the time, a federal official told reporters the nurse believed she would be participating in a procedure after a patient suffered a miscarriage. The nurse asked to be relieved, but was told no.

A year later the nurse, who has since left the hospital, filed a complaint with the Office for Civil Rights.

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