Editor's note: The following story features CMDA member Sara Hellwege, a key leader in CMDA's Atlanta ministry. Please pray for and stand with Sara as she courageously fights for protections that will benefit you and other life-affirming, conscientious healthcare professionals.
Excerpted from "A War on Women’s Health," commentary by Ian Tuttle, National Review, July 24, 2014 - Because it’s usually hidden beneath excuses, justifications, and pretexts, employer discrimination can be difficult to uncover. Not for Sara Hellwege [Hell-VAY-guh]. The aspiring nurse-midwife’s potential employer, a federally funded health center in Tampa, Fla., made its reason for not hiring her unmistakably clear: "Due to the fact ... you are a member of [a pro-life Ob-Gyn group], we would be unable to move forward in the interviewing process."
Hellwege, with the aid of Alliance Defending Freedom, a legal organization that focuses on religious-freedom violations, has filed suit against the Tampa Family Health Centers, Inc. (TFHC), for violating both federal and state law. Hellwege and Matt Bowman, senior legal counsel with ADF and one of Hellwege’s attorneys, contend that TFHC violated 42 U.S. Code § 300a–7d, which states:
No individual shall be required to perform or assist in the performance of any part of a health service program or research activity funded in whole or in part under a program administered by the Secretary of Health and Human Services if his performance or assistance in the performance of such part of such program or activity would be contrary to his religious beliefs or moral convictions.By all indications, Hellwege’s legal case is about as straightforward as they come. But the legal issues are irrelevant in the feminist blogosphere, where Hellwege has been savagely attacked.
But there is no conspiracy here — the law, at both federal and state levels, is clear, which perhaps explains its curious absence from the discussion at Salon and Wonkette — nor is there an effort to "refuse to provide women’s health care." Hellwege studied a field of care — midwifery — that is strictly for women, and she voluntarily sought out a position where she could serve poor women who often receive subpar care.
"The Left’s mantra of access is hollow," says Bowman, "because they want to deprive women of access to good, qualified nurses — like Sara." Bowman hopes that TFHC will admit wrongdoing and give Hellwege the chance to interview. If not, she and ADF are prepared to pursue their case using all available legal means.
"Many women want a pro-life midwife or nurse or doctor," he adds. "If the federal government can discriminate, women will have no options. There needs to be diversity among health providers, including religious and moral diversity that allows patients to have access to professionals who share their values."
CMDA CEO David Stevens, MD, MA (Ethics): “The focus of this lawsuit is not defending a particular position on hormonal contraceptives, but rather defending a healthcare professional’s right to make conscientious decisions, even if that view is a minority position. Religious freedom does not mean simply protecting our own particular views on moral matters but protecting the right of each individual to make moral decisions based on conscience and ethical standards. Thus, we must defend a Muslim woman’s right to wear the hijab and the Jewish man’s right to wear the yarmulke as vigorously as we defend our own right to not be involved in abortions or other objectionable practices in healthcare.
“The position Sara applied for was to provide ‘all outpatient primary care’ so it went far beyond just providing contraception. Disqualifying Sara based on just this one aspect of her job is just like disqualifying an OB/Gyn candidate for declining to do abortions.
“Pray for Sara. She has been under vicious attacks in publications like Jezebel, Slate, Wonkette, Americans United for Separation of Church and State, Styleite, Opposing Views and The Raw Story. She is standing up with the aid of the Alliance Defending Freedom to defend both your conscience freedoms and my conscience freedoms. I applaud her courage. The outcome of her case involving enforcing the Church Amendment could affect us all.”
- Urge your U.S. senators to support (or thank your senator for already co-sponsoring) the Health Care Conscience Rights Act - S. 1204 , to protect religious liberty and preserve patient access by providing conscience protections for health care professionals. (Note: You will be provided with editable text based on your senator's sponsorship or non-sponsorship of this bill.)
- Urge your U.S. Representative to support (or thank your
Rep. for already co-sponsoring) the Health Care Conscience Rights Act - H.R. 940.
- Send a message to Sara
CMDA's Freedom2Care website: Freedom of faith, conscience and speech
CMDA's Freedom2Care commentaries in national newspapers
CMDA Freedom of Faith and Conscience resources
Fla. health center denies nursing job to pro-life woman - Alliance Defending Freedom