Nurse forced to assist in abortion seeks to stop dismantling of her conscience protections

ADF attorneys file motion to intervene in lawsuit that would eliminate N.Y. nurse’s ability to defend herself
Tuesday, December 14, 2010

HARTFORD, Conn. — A New York nurse who filed suit after being forced against her conscience to participate in an abortion is now seeking to intervene in a separate lawsuit that aims to tear down the only federal regulation that protects her federal conscience rights.

Attorneys with the Alliance Defense Fund representing the nurse, Cathy Cenzon-DeCarlo, filed a motion to intervene Friday in State of Connecticut v. United States of America, a lawsuit initiated to tear down existing federal conscience protections for health care workers.

“Medical professionals should not be punished for holding to their beliefs, and they should not be forced to perform abortions against their conscience.  Those pursuing this lawsuit, including organizations such as Planned Parenthood, would like nothing more than to deny health care workers the only means that exists to defend their federally protected right to opt out of abortions,” said ADF Legal Counsel Matt Bowman.

ADF is currently involved in a lawsuit in New York state court to defend Cenzon-DeCarlo’s conscience rights under state law, but the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 2nd Circuit upheld the dismissal of her federal lawsuit, leaving only an ongoing investigation by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services as the means to defend her rights protected under federal law. That investigation relies upon a regulation implemented by former President George W. Bush that directs the department to conduct such investigations. The plaintiffs in the Connecticut lawsuit are seeking to tear down that regulation, which the defendant Obama administration also wants to dismantle, leaving little defense for the regulation and for health care workers.

The intervention brief filed with the court explains, “By being forced to assist a 22-week abortion in violation of federal law, Mrs. Catherina Cenzon-DeCarlo is an actual victim of a violation of the right of conscience that President Bush’s Implementing Regulation was written to protect.  Moreover, that Regulation has helped empower Defendant HHS’ Office of Civil Rights to actually and presently be investigating that violation on her behalf, explicitly telling Mrs. DeCarlo that the investigation is being pursued at least in part under the Implementing Regulation. Yet in this case, Plaintiffs seek to invalidate that Regulation and Defendants have worked with Plaintiffs to stay the case based on their intent to rescind the Regulation.”

“Thus by threatening to take away her only present recourse…,” the brief explains, “this case may cause Mrs. DeCarlo to again be illegally compelled to assist in abortions by her federally funded employer due to the removal of all her protective measures.”

ADF attorneys, working together with the Christian Legal Society’s Center for Law and Religious Freedom, are simultaneously attempting to intervene in the case on behalf of several pro-life medical associations. The judge cleared the motions from his calendar for the time being but determined that they can be considered once the case, which is currently on hold, moves forward.

ADF is a legal alliance of Christian attorneys and like-minded organizations defending the right of people to freely live out their faith. Launched in 1994, ADF employs a unique combination of strategy, training, funding, and litigation to protect and preserve religious liberty, the sanctity of life, marriage, and the family.