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This Pediatric Nurse Lost Her Job Because She Would Not Refer for Abortion

For pediatric nurse Sandra Rojas, abandoning her religious beliefs was not an option.
Alliance Defending Freedom
For pediatric nurse Sandra Rojas, abandoning her religious beliefs was not an option.

Sandra Rojas got into pediatric nursing to make children’s lives better. But after nearly 20 years at the Winnebago County Health Department, she was asked to do the exact opposite.

In 2015, Sandra was required to start referring for and facilitating abortions. But this wasn’t something she could agree to. Sandra became a pediatric nurse to take care of children, not to take their lives.

Because of this, Sandra lost her job. Read more about her story below.

Sandra Rojas, a pediatric nurse, was forced to choose between violating her religious beliefs and keeping her job.

Who is Sandra Rojas?

Sandra was 17 years old when she walked into a local children’s home. She knew then and there that she wanted to serve children. That’s why she became a pediatric nurse.

And Sandra excelled at her job. During her 18 years at the Winnebago County Health Department in Rockford, Illinois, she received awards for her professionalism, care, and commitment to improving her patients’ lives.

But when a new public health administrator decided to merge Sandra’s pediatric clinic with the women’s health department in 2015, things began to change.

Moving forward, all nurses—including pediatric nurses—would be required to provide abortion referrals and provide abortion-inducing drugs to women. But Sandra believes that all human life is precious and deserving of dignity. Not to mention that referring for or participating in abortions would violate the oath she took to “do no harm.”

This left Sandra with two choices: violate her religious beliefs or lose her job.

Because she could not abandon her beliefs—the very beliefs that motivate her to serve children and their families—Sandra lost her job, her income, and her health insurance. Financially, she could no longer help pay for her son’s college tuition or her grandchildren’s educational expenses.

That’s why Sandra reached out to an Alliance Defending Freedom network attorney, and ADF assisted him in filing a lawsuit on Sandra’s behalf.

Rojas v. Martell

Thankfully, Illinois law protects pro-life medical professionals. Sandra filed a lawsuit against the Winnebago County Health Department for violating her rights under the Illinois’ Health Care Right of Conscience Act.

And in February 2022, the court ruled in favor of Sandra.

“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.”

What’s at stake?

Unfortunately, not all doctors or nurses have the conscience protections that Sandra and others enjoy in Illinois. As of now, medical professionals who live in states without similar conscience protections have limited options. They can file a complaint with the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), but these complaints can take years to process. Many who are pro-life in the medical community live in constant fear of losing their jobs simply because of their belief that human life is worth defending.

Sandra wants to make sure that other pro-life health care professionals never have to go through what she did—that they are free to live out their beliefs without fear of losing their jobs. That is the freedom that she is standing for.

Case timeline

  • July 2015: Sandra resigned after being told she would have to either perform the abortion-related services or lose her job.
  • October 2021: An Illinois trial court ruled that Sandra was wrongfully forced out of her job for declining to assist with or refer for abortion or abortifacient contraceptives.
  • February 2022: The court ruled that Winnebago County must pay more than $370,000 to Sandra’s attorneys.

The bottom line

Pro-life health care professionals should never be forced to violate their conscience to keep their jobs.

Learn more about this pediatric nurse’s case:

See how Sandra lost her job for standing up for her beliefs:

Hear Sandra and her attorneys discuss her case: