Vanderbilt Alters Nursing Application After Abortion Requirement Protest

By Susan Brinkmann, OCDS
Staff Journalist

In response to a legal complaint filed against the school for demanding that all nursing school students participate in abortions, Vanderbilt University has  decided to “clarify the language” on its application to reassure pro-life applicants that they can opt out of any procedures that violate their religious or moral convictions.

The Tennessean is reporting that the school decided to change its application after a complaint was filed with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services by the Alliance Defense Fund (ADF), a public interest law firm. The complaint charged that the school’s nursing school application required women to sign a letter acknowledging that they would be caring for women who were having abortions. The ADF charged that the letter suggests all residents would be required to participate in abortion procedures in violation of federal law which does not allow recipients of federal funds to participate in procedures that are against their religious beliefs or moral convictions.

A ccording to the fourth year nursing student who brought the complaint, the wording of the letter states:  “If you are chosen for the Nurse Residency Program in the Women’s Health track, you will be expected to care for women undergoing termination of pregnancy. Procedures performed in the Labor and Delivery unit include…terminations of pregnancy…. If you feel you cannot provide care to women during this type of event, we encourage you to apply to a different track of the Nurse Residency Program to explore opportunities that may best fit your skills and career goals.…”

Vanderbilt responded to the complaint by denying the claim, saying the letter was only meant to inform applications that they would be expected to provide care to women who had received a variety of procedures, including abortion, but in no way was mandating their participation in the actual procedure.

“After consideration and discussion, we decided it would be helpful to clarify the language in the … application package,” said Vanderbilt spokesman John Howser.

The letter was edited to longer require a signature and to inform applicants where they can direct requests to be exempted from participating in abortions.

In addition, the school’s director of nursing education and professional development, Debianne Peterman,  e-mailed applicants to apologize for any confusion and to assure them that Vanderbilt employees can cite religious or moral grounds to opt out of participating in procedures that terminate pregnancies.

The complaint against the school has been withdrawn. .

“It was the right thing for Vanderbilt to do,” said David French, ADF senior counsel, “and they should be commended for it.”

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