Catherina Cenzon-DeCarlo is a 35 year-old married mother who works as a nurse at Mount Sinai Medical Center in New York. She has worked in the operating room since 2004.
When she first applied for her position at Mount Sinai, her supervisor asked if she would be willing to participate in abortions. Ms. Cenzon-DeCarlo, a devout Catholic, said no, that such involvment would violate her deeply-held beliefs. Her conscientious refusal was put in writing, and is supposedly protected by federal conscience standards.
All that changed on May 24, 2009, 30 minutes after Ms. Cenzon-DeCarlo came to work. She saw, to her utter dismay, that she was scheduled to assist in the abortion of a 22-week pregnancy. She immediately informed her supervisor that this was unacceptable. The supervisor claimed that the patient had preeclamsia (a hypertensive condition that can lead to serious complications if not treated), and that the procedure was an emergency. Nonetheless, the hospital had a six-hour window of opportunity to replace Ms. Cenzon-DeCarlo, which they failed to do. The supervisor simply told the nurse that the patient would die if she refused to help. With great reluctance, and feeling that her job was threatened, the nurse assisted in the abortion.
After the procedure, Ms. Cenzon-DeCarlo noted that the operation was not classified as an emergency, and in fact, early treatment (with intravenous magnesium sulfate) had not been administered. She filed a grievance the following day with her union. Several days later, she was told by two supervisors that she would have to sign a statement agreeing to do abortions, which she refused to do. She was punished by being denied overtime shifts.
Catherina Cenzon-DeCarlo is still working at Mount Sinai, but she is suing the hospital. In her own words, the Phillipino nurse said, “I emigrated to this country in the belief that here religious freedom is sacred. Doctors and nurses shouldn’t be forced to abandon their beliefs and participate in abortion in order to keep their jobs.” She wants the hospital to restore her status and respect her religious beliefs.
The is an especially egregious example of the strong movement in this country to make health care professionals abandon their conscience rights. Abortion is not a part of normal reproductive health care. At the very least, doctors and nurses should not be forced to participate.