On Wednesday, several nurses spoke publicly in favor of the Conscience Protection Act of 2017, legislation sponsored by Rep. Diane Black (R-TN), which "would allow health-care providers like nurses and doctors to sue if they’re coerced into participating in abortions or if they face discrimination at work for refusing to do so," reports The Hill.
It would also provide legal recourse for hospitals, health systems, religious charities, churches and insurance companies who are required to participate in or provide coverage for abortion.
One nurse in particular, Cathy DeCarlo, told a harrowing story. In 2009, she was forced to help a doctor perform an abortion:
I moved to New York in 2001, and I worked at a number of hospitals. In August of 2004, I was hired as an operating room nurse at a New York hospital, a hospital which receives millions of dollars in federal funding. When I was hired, the hospital assured me that I would never have to compromise my conscience, and participate in an abortion. For five years, I enjoyed serving patients and received exemplary performance reviews. But on May 24th, 2009, the hospital went back on their word.
I was preparing for what I thought was going to be a common procedure following a miscarriage only to realize that I was being asked to perform an abortion on a live, 22-week-old unborn baby. I was scared. I knew doing so would violate my conscience and commitment to protecting and saving lives. I immediately called the resident doctor on duty and my supervisor to find a sub. My supervisor informed me that I would have to assist with the abortion.
I reminded her in tears about the hospital's legal obligation to never force me to participate in an abortion, but to always find a substitute nurse – but she refused. My supervisor insisted that I had to do the abortion, and that if I didn't assist, I would be charged with insubordination and abandoning my patient. My nursing career and ability to care for patients and provide for my family would be over. I'll never forget that day as I watched in horror as a doctor dismembered and removed the baby's bloody limbs – and I had to account for all the pieces.
I still have nightmares about that day, which is why I am here today to ask Congress to pass the Conscience Protection Act so that no other nurses or health care professionals are ever forced to go through what I did.
I never thought in America that I would be forced to violate my conscience in that way. Please protect conscience rights for health care workers. Protecting conscience is essential to our ability to care for and ensure every patient is treated with dignity and respect.