In response to the complaints filed yesterday by ADF with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services concerning Vanderbilt’s requirement that Women’s Health Track applicants in its Nurse Residency Program must sign an acknowledgement that they must assist in abortions, Vanderbilt has today amended its application packet  to eliminate this requirement.  Applicants are now asked to read a statement that such procedures are in the program, but it also explicitly informs applicants of the availability of a right to be excused from assisting with abortion procedures and does not require applicants to acknowledge in advance of admission any willingness to participate in abortions.  An email by Vanderbilt  to all applicants informed them of the change this afternoon.

Vanderbilt’s application for its Women’s Health Track in its Nurse Residency Program had required applicants to acknowledge they would have to assist with women undergoing an abortion.  It did not qualify this acknowledgement in any way nor inform applicants of any protection for their rights of conscience once admitted.  A student applying to the Vanderbilt program had to promise in advance that he or she would provide any and all assistance for any woman undergoing an abortion.  Vanderbilt’s prompt action to change their application means that applicants will now be able to apply to Vandy’s prestigious Nurse Residency Program without signing away their right under federal law to refuse “to counsel, suggest, recommend, assist, or in any way participate in the performance of abortions” in violation of their conscience.

Yesterday Vanderbilt had claimed that despite the requirement of a signed acknowledgement making no reference to conscience protections it actually did allow conscientious and religious objection by its employees.  But the application itself provided no such protection.  It also informed them that if they could not sign the open-ended “acknowledgement” that they should “apply to a different track of the Nurse Residency Program to explore opportunities that may best fit your skills and career goals.…”   

As I mentioned yesterday, there was once a time not so long ago when right wing pro-life radicals like Senator Edward Kennedy would stand on the floor of the United States Senate and speak on behalf of the rights of conscience of pro-life medical professionals.  Through hard work and obfuscation by the pro-abortion lobby, in the last decade or so it has become controversial for a doctor, nurse, or other medical professional to assert a right not assist in the destruction of human life.  The Obama Administration is even threatening to repeal regulations (not the statutes themselves which will remain binding on recipients of taxpayer funds) that implement federal laws protecting healthcare workers’ rights of conscience and provide the mechanism for complaining (as ADF did here) to HHS of violations of those rights. 

Sadly, my experience is that Vanderbilt’s requirement was not one of a kind.  And taking Vanderbilt at its word, that it truly does protect the conscience rights of its employees, Vanderbilt may now even be ahead of the game.  Despite decades-old federal statutes specifically on point, I am aware of other universities, receiving millions of dollars in taxpayer funds that have sought to coerce students or employees into participating in abortions.  Unsurprisingly, the University of Wisconsin was among them until ADF intervened.  If you are a medical or nursing student who has experienced any pressure or coercion of any kind to assist with abortion procedures in violation of your conscience, please let us know.

Kudos to the Commodores.  However it got to this point, Vandy deserves credit for getting it right.