By Mary Margaret Olohan
Nurses who don’t want to provide abortions should not go into health care, according to associate professor and clinician-scientist Monica R. McLemore.
McLemore bashed pro-life nurses in an op-ed in Vice titled “If You Don’t Want to Provide Abortions, Don’t Go Into Health Care.”
“To be clear, I respect people’s desires not to do things that go against their moral or religious beliefs,” the registered nurse wrote. “I know that professional nursing in the United States was established in religiously affiliated institutions. However, people shouldn’t go into health care if they don’t want to provide health care.”
McLemore referred to a case involving a nurse at the University of Vermont Medical Center (UVMMC) who filed a conscience and religious complaint with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Office for Civil Rights against UVMMC.
HHS notified UVMMC on Aug. 28 that the center had violated the nurse’s rights — a notification that demands the center bring its rules into compliance with federal requirements within 30 days or face losing federal funds, including $1.6 million received from HHS’s Health Resources and Services Administration over the past three years, according to The Washington Post.
“There’s a larger issue here that isn’t being discussed,” McLemore wrote. “Who is worthy to serve the public with comprehensive reproductive services, and what are the standards of care that should be provided?”
“Privileging the health care workforce over the needs of the public runs counter to our commitment to patient-centered care,” McLemore wrote. She argued conscience rules disproportionately affect people of color.
“This is why the accommodations for conscience need to be re-examined as unethical and incompatible with the social contract to which members of the health professions commit,” McLemore wrote.
The associate professor said she would have asked the nurse “to wrestle with why her discomfort with abortion kept her from empathizing with the person who needed it.”
“My research has shown that nurses wrestle with ethically challenging care in real time, because there are few places in their educational preparation and on-the-job training to do so,” McLemore wrote. “Once afforded the opportunity to critically dissect their views and clarify their values, nurses are able to understand that the people we serve are experts by experience and know best what they need — more so than we do.”
Other medical professionals disagree with McLemore’s point of view.
“Despite the euphemisms of abortion as ‘women’s health care,’ it must be emphasized that abortion is not health care,” Dr. Ingrid Skop, a board member of the American Association of Pro-Life Obstetricians and Gynecologists, told the Daily Caller News Foundation. “It is a medical procedure that addresses the social problem of unintended pregnancy.”
“Disrupting the normal process of pregnancy and ending the life of a baby by abortion is the very antithesis of health care,” Skop added.
Skop also said that while she agreed with McLemore that serving as a medical professional is a privilege, she also understands “the harm that can result to a woman and her child from the medical unnecessary procedure of abortion, and I do not choose to use my healing skills for a life-destroying procedure.”
“Abortion is not health care, and no twisted logic can justify it as health care,” David Prentice, vice president and research director for the Charlotte Lozier Institute, told the DCNF.
“It would be tragic to force any health care worker to break their sacred oath committed to healing and coerce them to participate in an act so clearly against their conscience,” Prentice added.
Registered Nurse and Family Nurse Practitioner Sharon MacKinnon commented on the matter when HHS notified UVMMC, saying that “Doctors and nurses should never be forced to choose between risking their jobs or violating the dictates of their consciences in assisting or performing an abortion.”
“The convictions that stop me from assisting in abortion – the taking of an innocent human life – are the same convictions of compassion and care for the most vulnerable that drew me to the nursing profession in the first place,” McKinnon said in a statement. “I’m grateful the law has been rightly enforced in this instance, as it should be in all cases, so that what happened to this nurse never happens to another medical provider.”
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