TX Nurse Wins Religious Protection for Veterans Affairs Employees Opposed to Abortion
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The Department of Veterans Affairs (V.A.) will allow workers who were previously required to perform abortive services despite their religious beliefs to now be able to opt out of doing so.
First Liberty Institute, a nonprofit law firm, announced the V.A. will provide a nationwide religious accommodation process for employees with religious objections to abortion.
Last September, the V.A. published a new rule that allowed the agency to provide abortion counseling and provide abortion in certain cases to veterans and their beneficiaries.
"We came to this decision after listening to V.A. health care providers and veterans across the country, who sounded the alarm that abortion restrictions are creating a medical emergency for those we serve," Dr. Shereef Elnahal, V.A. undersecretary for health, said at the time.
Stephanie Carter, a nurse practitioner at the Olin E. Teague Veterans' Center in Temple, Texas, took issue with the new rule which was to take effect in October.
The 23-year veteran requested an accommodation from V.A. officials but was told no process existed to grant the request.
She filed a lawsuit in December with First Liberty because as an "Army veteran herself, and as a Christian who views her nursing work as a calling" she "relished the opportunity to serve her fellow veterans as a nurse practitioner", but overnight she "found herself working at a medical facility whose mission now included providing abortions and abortion counseling," which violates her religious beliefs, the lawsuit explains.
"It is unconscionable that the Biden administration would force health care workers at V.A. facilities to violate their consciences," Danielle Runyan, senior counsel for First Liberty Institute, said in a statement at the time. "The V.A. should be focused on caring for the men and women who bravely served to protect our country, not on performing illegal abortions."
Carter also feared losing her license and being persecuted under Texas law which bans abortion after a baby's heartbeat is detected.
Seven months after the lawsuit was filed, the V.A. announced they would offer a religious accommodation process for employees with religious objections.
"We're pleased that the V.A. implemented a nationwide policy to protect the religious liberty rights of all V.A. employees," Runyan said.
"Stephanie Carter is living proudly by her faith and should not be forced to choose between her faith and her career. Because of her courage, every V.A. employee in the nation can now seek a religious accommodation from participating in a procedure they find unconscionable," she added.
The lawsuit which was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Texas, was dismissed following the exemption.
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