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WATCH: Career or Conscience? Why This Nursing Student Was Forced to Choose.

Maureen Collins
Published on
WATCH: Career or Conscience? Why This Nursing Student Was Forced to Choose.

What if you had to choose between following your dream and following your conscience?

This was the choice before Anne-Marie Dust, a nursing student with a passion for protecting the unborn.

Anne-Marie had always dreamed of becoming a nurse—she ardently wanted to help others, no matter their stage of life. As a young adult, she was just finishing her undergraduate degree in nursing with excellent grades when she decided to apply for graduate residency programs focused on caring for pregnant women about to give birth.

Her dream seemed closer than ever.

That is, until she was applying for the graduate residency program at Vanderbilt University—one of the top nursing schools in the country.  


At the end of the application, Anne-Marie read a line that stopped her in her tracks. Vanderbilt’s Nurse Residency program actually required applicants to the Labor and Delivery unit to pledge that they would participate in abortions.


Anne-Marie knew from her upbringing—and from her knowledge of biology—that abortion ends a human life. Vanderbilt was asking the same applicants who wanted to be trained to help bring life into the world to sign a pledge that they would participate in snuffing it out.

And the application did not have much guidance for those who with objections:  “If you feel you cannot provide care to women during this type of event, we encourage you to apply to a different track.”

Obviously, being required to participate in abortions would have violated Anne-Marie’s deepest held beliefs about human life. Worse, it would have gone against her noble goal of becoming a nurse to help others—not hurt them.

“The whole point of being a nurse is that you care for people from some place that is deep within you,” she said. “You care about what is best for them. If you are prohibited from providing the absolute best care that you can for that person, there is no point in being a nurse.”

Vanderbilt’s message to Anne-Marie and other pro-life nursing students was that there is no point in applying to their program if they want to live consistently with their beliefs.

Forcing pro-life students to choose between their career and their consciences is an obvious violation of rights. So, Anne-Marie decided to fight back against this harmful policy by filing a complaint with the Department of Health and Human Services.

Thankfully, Vanderbilt decided to update its policy to no longer require applicants to sign the pledge.  And while Anne-Marie’s story ended in victory, stories like hers are not uncommon.

Pro-abortion activists are constantly talking about choice. But there is only one choice they want to give healthcare professionals: participate in abortions or find a new career.

But no one should be forced to participate in an abortion against their beliefs. And ADF will continue to defend their right to work according to their conscience and their pledge to do no harm.

Share her story to help spread the word about conscience rights for healthcare professionals.  

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Maureen Collins
Maureen Collins
Web Editor & SEO Manager
Maureen Collins serves as the Web Editor and SEO Manager at Alliance Defending Freedom.