Legislation / Court Cases

Conscience: Can I Say "No"? Your Right to Refuse

Many nurses and other medical professionals are unaware that they have the legal right to refuse to participate in an abortion.

Georgia law, for example, protects nurses from assisting in abortions and related procedures, if the nurse will simply notify her employer of her objections in writing.

The following is an example/sample of the type of letter you should sign and give to your supervisor:

To Whom It Concerns:

Pursuant to the Official Code of Georgia Annotated Section 16-12-142, this letter will constitute my written objection to any and all abortions on moral (and/or) religious grounds. For moral (and/or) religious reasons, I am opposed to, and shall not participate in, any procedures, tests, activities or services of any kind which will result in, or contribute to, an abortion.

Based on this law, I understand that my stand cannot affect my employment status.  I hope that you will support me in my right to take this stand. I intend to do my very best job in a diligent and effective manner. Your consideration of my standards and principles in this matter is appreciated.

We do have the right to refuse to participate in abortions and you are certainly not alone in your refusal. This is also – at least for now – your legal right; so do not be afraid to take a stand.

[Georgia Nurses for Life]

How can pro-life medical students avoid being harassed for their views?

Response from a top pro-life OBG:

"If you are harassed by your professors for your pro-life views, write a detailed description of the harassment for legal purposes. Federal Civil Rights Laws protect you. 

"Being harrassed for your pro life views is a given.  Expect it now and for the rest of your career. Know your position, and be able to articulate it, be sure it is conscience based.  

"Being penalized is what we need protection from.  And we have protection from the Medical Training Nondiscrimination Act of l995, which states:  The federal govt and any state that receives federal financial assistance (and that would be all of them!!) may not subject any health care entity to discrimination on the basis that the entity refuses to undergo training in the performance of induced abortions, to provide such training, to perform such abortions, or to provide referrals for such abortions.

"So programs may insist that students/residends must do abortions, but if they so insist, they stand to lose all their government money—and no program could stand that.  So, every pro-life student/resident should be very conversant with that bill, by name, and be able to quote it in your sleep. 

"Some suggest writing a statement to have placed in your file. As far as being sure a statement stating you will not do abortions is in your folder, I don't have an opinion on that.  Should you put such statement in your file before hand, or wait until the issue comes up?  I don't know.  It would only be relevant in your ob/gyn training (whether student or resident), and as long as you know the law, you might just wait to see if the issue comes up.  Or there may be an appropriate time to declare your stand, going into that section of training.  I just don't know .  Having it in there from the first would be good if there was a way to do it that didn't look like you were trying to start an issue.  Might vary with the circumstance. 

"As for a lawyer,  I would urge you, if challenged, to contact Alliance Defense Fund, or American Center for Law and Justice, or Rutherford Institute."