An Illinois nurse who was told she had to refer patients for abortions despite her objections has received by a circuit court, according to CBN News.
A judge ruled Wednesday that Winnebago County must pay Sandra Rojas more than $374,000 in attorney’s fees after it required her to provide abortion referrals and contraception despite her religious objections. Rojas was a pediatric nurse for the Winnebago County Health Department for 18 years before being told in 2015 that she would be required to issue abortion referrals and abortion drugs to pregnant women. Rojas refused to do so, citing her Catholic faith.
“Nursing is more than just a job, it is a noble calling to protect life and do no harm,” she said. “There is something terribly wrong when you are forced out of your job on account of your commitment to protect life.”
After refusing to participate, Rojas resigned and filed a lawsuit against the county. She said the requirement to refer for abortions violated her freedom of religion and freedom of conscience rights. The pro-life organization Alliance Defending Freedom served as co-counsel in the case, along with Noel Sterett of Dalton & Tomich and Whitman Brisky of Mauck & Baker.
“Healthcare professionals should not be required to violate their conscience to keep their jobs,” said Sterett. “Thankfully, Illinois has laws that protect a health care professional’s right to not participate in the provision of medical services which violate their conscience.” He hopes that this case will serve as a warning to employers who attempt to discriminate against employees for their religious beliefs.
“Nurse Rojas’s case set significant precedent and now stands as a seminal case under the Illinois Health Care Right of Conscience Act,” said Sterett. “The Court’s fee award will hopefully encourage other public and private health care employers to respect their employees’ rights of conscience.”
The Circuit Court Judge, Eugene Doherty, issued Rojas attorney fees of $374,104. “The Health Department improperly discriminated against (Rojas) by refusing to accommodate her objections of conscience in her existing job at the clinic,” the court wrote in its ruling. “The Court has concluded that the Health Department could have reasonably accommodated (Rojas’) objections without removing her from her job.”
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