Vanderbilt Nursing Accused of Barring Anti-Abortion Students

January 12, 2011

The Alliance Defense Fund on Tuesday charged Vanderbilt University Medical Center with violating a law that prevents federally funds from going to institutions that discriminate against applicants who do not want to assist in abortions. The dispute stems from Vanderbilt's Nurse Residency Program in the Women’s Health Track application (pdf), which says nurses “will be expected to care for women undergoing termination of pregnancy.” It continues: “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.”

In a statement released this morning, Vanderbilt University Medical Center North’s director of communications John Howser said that the allegations “have arisen due to a misunderstanding.” In a separate e-mail, he clarified the intention of the application: “The applicant must acknowledge … that he or she understands they may be asked to care for these patients at some point during their care. However, this DOES NOT mean the applicant will be required to participate in performing terminations as a requirement for training, but may be called upon to provide assistance at some point in the continuum of care.” Howser says that as of now, Vanderbilt University Medical Center cannot comment on whether it will change the language of the Nurse Residency application. Matt Bowman, a lawyer for the Alliance Defense Fund, responded, "Their description of the letter contradicts the letter itself. They're denying."

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