Fla. health center denies nursing job to pro-life woman

ADF files lawsuit over violation of federal, state law
Wednesday, July 02, 2014

Attorney sound bites:  Matt Bowman  |  Steven H. Aden

TAMPA, Fla. — Alliance Defending Freedom attorneys have filed a federal lawsuit against a federally funded health center in Tampa for refusing to consider an applicant for employment as a nurse because she is a member of a pro-life medical association and has a faith-based objection to prescribing some birth control methods that could lead to an abortion.

“No one deserves to suffer discrimination just because they’re pro-life,” said ADF Senior Legal Counsel Matt Bowman. “Federal and state law make it clear that being pro-abortion cannot be a prerequisite for employment, nor can federally funded facilities force nurses to assist with practices that could lead to an abortion.”

In April, the human resources director of Tampa Family Health Centers questioned Sara Hellwege about her membership with the American Association of Pro-Life Obstetricians and Gynecologists after she submitted a job application for a nurse-midwife position. After Hellwege confirmed her association with the group and that her religious beliefs prevent her from prescribing hormonal birth control drugs that can result in an early abortion in some circumstances, the director informed her in an e-mail, “Due to the fact that…you are a member of AAPLOG, we would be unable to move forward in the interviewing process.”

The lawsuit, Hellwege v. Tampa Family Health Centers, filed in the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Florida, Tampa Division, explains that “TFHC’s refusal to consider Ms. Hellwege’s application for employment on the basis of her religious beliefs and association with the pro-life group AAPLOG violates multiple federal laws.”

The lawsuit also explains that “Florida law shall not require ‘any person to participate in the termination of a pregnancy, nor shall...any person be liable for such refusal.’” Moreover, “Ms. Hellwege has the right to refuse to prescribe abortifacient contraceptives where such actions violate her religious beliefs or moral convictions.”

On Hellwege’s behalf, ADF attorneys also filed a Title VII complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission field office in Tampa and a Federal Tort Claims Act complaint with the Department of Health and Human Services in Washington, D.C. Both laws protect Hellwege from discrimination based on her pro-life views.

“Willingness to commit an abortion cannot be a litmus test for employment,” added ADF Senior Counsel Steven H. Aden. “All we are asking is for the health center to obey the law and not make a nurse’s employment contingent upon giving up her respect for life.”
 
  • Pronunciation guide: Bowman (BOH'-min), Hellwege (Hell-VAY’-guh)
 
Alliance Defending Freedom is an alliance-building, non-profit legal organization that advocates for the right of people to freely live out their faith.
 
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