NEWARK, N.J.  — Last week, a New Jersey hospital   settled with a group of nurses, who charged that they were forced to participate in abortions, in violation of state conscience protections. Now,  Congressman Chris Smith (R-NJ), who defended the nurses’ right to adhere to their pro-life moral principles, contends that the hospital should establish a system to ensure compliance with federal conscience-protections. 

In a Dec. 22 statement, the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey in Newark agreed not to require nurses to participate in abortions or any service related to those abortions.

“Now it is the hospital’s responsibility to make sure respect for conscience is implemented through a hospital-wide policy without nuance, loopholes, ambiguity or small print,” said Congressman Smith in a Dec. 28 statement.

“A durable, transparent and effective means of monitoring compliance with federally protected conscience rights must be put in place to ensure that no-one at UMDNJ, including the nurses who asserted their federally guaranteed rights not to participate in any way in the killing of an unborn child are harmed, subjected to any discrimination or retaliated against now or at any time in the future,” he added.

“UMDNJ argues that sometimes so-called safe, elective abortions put women in life-threatening situations,” said Smith, co-chairman of the Congressional Pro-life Caucus since 1982. “When an abortion threatens to take the life of both the baby and the mom, the pro-life nurses have always been willing to step in, if needed, to preserve the life of the mother until the emergency code team arrives.”

According to the Alliance Defense Fund, which represented the 12 nurses, the terms of the settlement require that if a woman suffers a true emergency from an abortion, the nursse will help protect her until other staff, such as the emergency team, arrives moments later.

“Because the abortions are all elective, outpatient surgeries, and the court is requiring the hospital to fully staff all abortion cases with non-objecting medical personnel, the pro-life nurses should never actually be needed in any such case,” the ADF statement said.

“No pro-life medical personnel should be forced to assist or train in services related to abortions. The hospital has finally done the right thing in agreeing to obey the law and not force our clients to do any work on abortion cases in violation of their beliefs,” said ADF Legal Counsel Matt Bowman, who represented the nurses.

“The hospital agreed not to penalize our clients in any way because they choose not to participate in abortion according to their legal rights,” said Bowman.

The hospital agreed not to replace the pro-life nurses or reduce their hours.

When asked if the hospital might implement a policy like the one Smith called for, a hospital spokesman did not comment but simply provided a statement: “We are pleased that we have reached an agreement that is in the best interests of the patients we serve and respects the beliefs of our nurses,” the statement said. “The hiring of additional nurses, which we announced several weeks ago, enables us to address both concerns.”