Aug. 29 (UPI) -- The Trump administration has threatened to pull federal funding from a Vermont university hospital after one of its nurses said she was forced to assist with an abortion against her religious objections.
In a statement Wednesday, the Department of Health and Human Services said it has issued a Notice of Violation against the University of Vermont Medical Center for having violated the Church Amendments by allegedly forcing a nurse to assist on an abortion despite her religious objections. The notice also states that the hospital practices "discriminatory policies" that assign employees to assist with abortion procedures despite their religious or moral objections.
The incident occurred May 9 when the nurse was allegedly forced to participate in the abortion despite years of objections to such procedures, the Office for Civil Rights said.
"The nurse was not told the procedure was an abortion until the nurse walked into the room, when the doctor -- knowing the nurse objected to assisting in abortions -- told the nurse, 'Don't hate me,'" the report states. "The nurse again objected, and other staff were present who could have taken the nurse's place, but the nurse was required to assist with the abortion anyway."
The nurse complied out of fear for her job, the release said.
"Forcing medical staff to assist in the taking of human life inflicts a moral injury on them that is not only unnecessary and wrong, it violates longstanding federal law," said OCR Director Roger Severino. "Our investigation has uncovered serious discriminate by UVMMC against nurses and staff who cannot, in good conscience assist in elective abortions."
During a phone call with reporters, Severino would not answer questions concerning the viability of the pregnancy or the term it was in at the time of the procedure, only that it was not an emergency surgery.
The hospital said in a statement that it conducted its own investigation and found the allegations "were not supported by the facts."
The hospital said it cannot go into detail concerning the case as it concerns patient care and personnel matters, but that its officials approached the OCR to address potential issues with the hospital policies, but it instead decided to make the announcement.
"We nonetheless remain willing to work cooperatively with OCR to identify any ways in which we can further support our employees' conscience and religious rights, in a manner that is consistent with high-quality patient care, and the other legal and ethical obligations we have to our patients," the statement said.
At risk is the hospital's $1.6 million in federal funding. The OCR said it is giving the hospital 30 days to change its policies or it will be forwarding the complaint on to Health Resources and Services Administration, which provides grants to the hospital.