The Biden Justice Department is under criticism by religious liberty advocates after it dismissed a Trump-era lawsuit against a Vermont hospital that allegedly forced a Catholic nurse to assist with an abortion.
The lawsuit was filed against the University of Vermont Medical Center (UVMMC) by the Department of Justice in the final weeks of 2020, more than one year after the hospital received a Notice of Violation in 2019 alleging it violated a federal law that protects the conscience rights of individuals who object to abortion. The Notice of Violation had been filed by the Trump Department of Health and Human Services.
But on Friday, the Biden Justice Department filed a one-page notice in federal court stating it was dismissing the lawsuit, according to the Burlington Free Press. No reason was given for the dismissal.
The unnamed nurse had filed a complaint in 2018 with the HHS Office for Civil Rights. The office subsequently found that the hospital “forced the nurse complainant to assist in an abortion against the nurse’s religious or moral objection,” according to a 2019 HHS news release.
Roger Severino, who was the director of the Office for Civil Rights during the Trump administration, criticized the Biden Justice Department for dropping the suit.
“Without so much as a slap on the wrist, this was a clear favor to abortion special interests and a spit in the face of not only the victim in the case, but the many medical professionals who have suffered conscience violations through the years and will continue to suffer, but now with little hope of recourse from their government,” Severino wrote this week for the National Review.
“... Even the Obama administration entered into a corrective action agreement with a hospital that had forced a nurse to assist in an abortion, but not Biden. We now know, if there was ever any doubt, that Biden and Becerra’s first loyalty is not to their proclaimed Catholic faith or to the law, but to abortion, abortion, and more abortion.”
The Department of Health and Human Services said in 2019 the nurse “had expressed an objection for many years and was included in a list of objectors, but UVMMC knowingly assigned the nurse to an abortion procedure.”
“The nurse was not told the procedure was an abortion until the nurse walked into the room, when the doctor – knowing the nurse objected to assisting in abortions – told the nurse, ‘Don’t hate me.’ The nurse again objected, and other staff were present who could have taken the nurse’s place, but the nurse was required to assist with the abortion anyway,” HHS said.
The Office for Civil Rights interviewed “multiple witnesses,” HHS said in 2019.
The hospital said it had strengthened “its already-compliant provider opt-out policies and practices.”
Photo courtesy: Medicalert/Unsplash
Michael Foust has covered the intersection of faith and news for 20 years. His stories have appeared in Baptist Press, Christianity Today, The Christian Post, the Leaf-Chronicle, the Toronto Star and the Knoxville News-Sentinel.