In an article that she wrote for Slate titled Pro-Life Nurse-Midwife Who Won’t Prescribe the Pill Sues Family Planning Center for Not Hiring Her, Andrea Marcotte poses the following question:
Is “religious freedom” about being free to practice your faith, or just a generic cover story for any and all attempts to try to foist your beliefs on others?
Marcotte said that in “this era of Hobby Lobby vs. Burwell, it’s understandable that many on the right have decided it’s the latter and are eager to start testing the limits of how much leverage the expansive new definition of ‘religious freedom’ gives them to meddle with the private contraception choices of others.”
The nurse-midwife who is the subject of Marcotte’s article is Sara Hellwege from Tampa, Florida. She is a member of the American Association of Pro-Life Obstetricians and Gynecologists. Hellwege applied for a job “at a family health center where prescribing people birth control is a job requirement.” According to a number of reports, Hellewege “informed her potential employers that she would not be prescribing any hormonal contraception.” When she wasn’t interviewed or hired for the job by the Tampa Family Health Centers because of her stated refusal to prescribe hormonal contraception, she decided to sue the clinic. The Christian right organization Alliance Defending Freedom is said to be handling her case.
According to Katie McDonough (Salon), Hellwege’s lawsuit alleges that she was “told she could not apply for the positions of certified nurse-midwife by Tampa Family Health Centers […] explicitly based on her religious beliefs and moral convictions in opposition to prescribing certain drugs that she believes can cause the death of a human embryo.”
Imagine applying for a job and informing your potential employer that you would refuse to perform one of the job requirements…and then suing because you didn’t get the position?!
Now I’m not the hiring director at this medical center, but if I were, I would question the willingness of a woman with self-described moral objections to contraception to “counsel” others in an unbiased and medically accurate manner about contraception. Particularly when this woman’s view — sincerely held though it may be — is that birth control “causes the death of a human embryo.” (Even putting aside the language, this is not how birth control works. There’s nothing up for debate about that.) What would medical counseling from this woman look like? I’m going to wager that it wouldn’t look so great. Would she “counsel” patients who want a prescription for birth-control pills that she viewed this choice as a moral aberration? Would she “counsel” patients who want an IUD that she believed such a device amounted to murder?
Erin Gloria Ryan (Jezebel) poses some excellent questions at the end of her Jezebel article titled Nurse Who Won’t Prescribe Birth Control Sues Clinic For Not Hiring Her:
But if corporations are allowed to have “religious faith” that justifies discriminating against women who use contraception, then why wouldn’t they be allowed the same luxury in dismissing employees who, in their sincerely held belief, actively seek to harm women? It seems pretty baldly inconsistent for folks who sided with bosses in the Hobby Lobby case to suddenly come down hard against bosses when the tables are turned. Do business owners have the right to operate only in accordance with Christian morality? Do beliefs only count if they police sexuality? Do bosses have a right to “conscientiously object” to certain employee behaviors or don’t they?
Win or lose, Hellwege’s case provides insight in how the war on contraception is shaping up. Direct assaults through legislation are going to be a much harder sell with contraception than abortion, so instead we’re getting the argument that someone else’s “religious freedom”—your boss, your nurse—entitles them to interfere with your ability to get contraception. Family planning centers are one place that women have long been able to trust will provide them contraception access without unnecessary hassle, and now the Christian right is trying to take even that away.
Methinks that Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg was correct when she wrote the following in her dissent in the Hobby Lobby ruling: “The court, I fear, has ventured into a minefield.”
Nurse won’t prescribe birth control, sues because she didn’t get a job that requires prescribing birth control: A Florida nurse won’t do a job as required, but still wants the job. Now she’s alleging religious discrimination (Salon)