A nurse suing Veterans Affairs to opt out of participating in abortions at the Temple, Texas, facility where she works says her reasons are her Christian faith and regret over her own past abortions, the Washington Examiner reports.
"I'm a person who has had abortions in the past and was before I came to the Lord and was before I had the relationship that I have with him now," VA nurse Stephanie Carter told the Examiner.
Carter, 57, said she had six abortions before becoming a Christian in 1997. Four of those were because of rapes, she told the Examiner.
"And I thought abortions were OK, and I didn't even give it a thought, really," she said, explaining that before coming to faith, "it was used as birth control."
Carter's lawsuit was filed in the Western District of Texas by First Liberty Institute, a legal group that specializes in religious freedom cases. The suit is based on the Biden administration allowing VA hospitals to perform abortions in some cases in states where it has been outlawed following the overruling of Roe v. Wade in 2022.
Carter says Texas has some of the strictest abortion restrictions, making it possible she could face disciplinary action if she is ordered to aid in an abortion and refuses to comply.
"I don't want to do any abortions at all; I don't want to prescribe or any of that," she told the Examiner. "It goes against everything that I believe, so I can't do it."
First Liberty Institute attorney Danielle Runyan told the publication it believes the agency rule is "not valid" and "illegal." The suit cites the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, which "ensures that interests in religious freedom are protected."
"Ms. Carter has demonstrated that she has sincerely held religious beliefs that are being substantially burdened by this rule being enforced at the Temple, Texas, facility. The government has to have a compelling interest for enforcing the rule, which it does not because the rule was implemented illegally," Runyan told the Examiner.
When contacted for comment, the Office of Public Affairs provided a statement from VA Press Secretary Terrence Hayes saying that about half of the more than 600,000 women who use VA healthcare are of childbearing age, and abortion is one of the services provided "when the life or health of the pregnant Veteran would be endangered if the pregnancy were carried to term or when the pregnancy is the result of rape or incest."
"From the moment VA announced this new rule, Secretary McDonough has made clear to all employees that their religious beliefs are protected here at VA. While we cannot comment on ongoing litigation, VA does provide personal accommodations for VA employees who wish to opt out of providing or facilitating abortion counseling or services," Hayes said. "We have provided all VA healthcare employees with this information — including information for how to exercise those protections through VA's Office of Resolution Management Diversity and Inclusion — and we have encouraged employees to inform their supervisors of any requests for accommodations."
But Runyan said no such process was made available for Carter at the Temple facility "to engage in any sort of a discussion with her supervisors."
Carter said she asked twice but was told "that I had to wait."
"And my fear was that the longer I waited, the more it gave them time to actually start the process of doing abortions, and I'm not covered," Carter said.
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