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Christian legal group alleges Vanderbilt nursing program violates federal abortion law

The Alliance Defense Fund, a Christian legal organization, filed a civil rights complaint against Vanderbilt University on Tuesday, Jan. 12, stating that the university medical center’s application materials for its summer 2011 nurse residency program violate federal law by requiring applicants to agree to participate in abortion procedures.

The university has denied the charges.

In one section of the application materials, applicants must sign a statement saying, “I am aware that I may be providing nursing care for women who are having procedures including terminations of pregnancy.”

“It is important that you are aware of this aspect of care and give careful consideration to your ability to provide compassionate care to women in these situations,” the application reads. “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.”

The ADF filed the complaint with the federal Department of Health and Human Services Office for Civil Rights on behalf of an unnamed Mississippi woman, who claims that the application materials violates a part of the U.S. Code that states recipients of federal funds cannot require someone to perform or assist in abortions if it violates his or her religious beliefs or moral convictions.

Vanderbilt University Medical Center spokesman John Howser told the Tennessean that the acknowledgment was created to inform applicants that they will be asked to provide care to women who have had, or are seeking, abortions. It does not mean to suggest that residents with religious or moral objections will be required to participate in the actual procedures, Howser told the Tennessean.

David French, Alliance Defense Fund senior counsel and director of its Columbia-based Center for Academic Freedom, told the Tennessean that the language in the application materials in effect screen out pro-life applications, and it is that language that is in violation of federal law.

The Alliance Defense Fund has requested that HHS take action in time for Vanderbilt’s Jan. 28 deadline for the summer nursing residency.

Kyle Blaine is the news editor of the Vanderbilt Hustler. He is a member of the Student Free Press Association.

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