Illinois court rules in favor of Catholic nurse who lost job over abortion objections
An Illinois court ruled that a county health department violated the conscience rights of a Catholic nurse who lost her task after declining to provide contraceptives or abortion recommendations.
The judgment is the latest development in an ongoing court fight in between Sandra Rojas, a pediatric nurse, and the Winnebago County Health Department, northwest of Chicago.
Rojas worked for the county’s health center for 18 years, primarily doing immunizations and health screenings for children. When the county combined its pediatric centers with a ladies’s health clinic in 2015, Rojas objected, saying her Catholic beliefs forbade her from offering contraception or abortion referrals.
In action, according to court files, center authorities at first honored Rojas’ objections while they searched for a new role to appoint her. They ultimately used her a part-time task as a food inspector or a full-time job at a retirement home. She declined those functions and resigned, which cost her more than $18,000 in salary and $213,000 in pension benefits.
In 2016, Rojas sued the county health department, citing the Illinois Health Care Right of Conscience Act, a 1970s-era law that safeguards medical workers who object to abortion, in addition to the Illinois Religious Freedom Restoration Act. The case took years to make its method through Illinois courts, in part since there have been relatively couple of cases including the act.
Judge Eugene G. Doherty of the 17th Judicial Circuit Court ultimately ruled Rojas’ rights had actually been breached. He likewise kept in mind the case “presents genuine interests in conflict.”
“Plaintiff can have her objections of conscience appreciated; the Health Department can run its centers and offer the service it was obligated to supply,” he wrote in an Oct. 25 memorandum.
“The court’s choice is a win for all health care experts throughout Illinois,” Noel Sterett, attorney for Rojas, stated. “Health care experts need to not be forced to breach their conscience to keep their tasks.”
Sterett, who is associated with Alliance Defending Freedom, a significant Christian legal not-for-profit, thanked his client for sticking to the case throughout the lengthy court process.
“She continued and thought it was essential to assert her rights and help other nurses and healthcare experts understand that they have a right of conscience,”he stated. “So we’ve hung in there with her and she’s hung in there with us.”
Nurse Sandra Rojas poses in front of the Winnebago County Courthouse in a video by Alliance Defending Freedom. Video screen grab The Illinois Health Care Right of Conscience Act has actually remained in the news recently as Illinoisans who object to COVID-19 vaccine mandates and other pandemic constraints have begun pointing out the law to avoid abiding by those requireds. Illinois lawmakers just recently voted to amend the law to enable employers to need workers to abide by those requireds.
Sterett stated he was worried about those who make what he called “insincere religious exemption claims” that make it harder for clients who have sincere religious exemption claims.
“It just creates skepticism in the courts,” he stated. “And in the court of public opinion.”