In 2016, Sandra Rojas lost her job of 18 years.
But it wasn’t because she did anything wrong. In fact, her superiors acknowledged that she was an excellent employee. At the Winnebago County Health Department where she worked as a pediatric nurse, Sandra had been recognized as the Employee of the Month and Employee of the Quarter.
Instead, it was Sandra’s religious convictions that brought her decades-long career to an end.
You see, Sandra believes that the life of every child should be protected—born or unborn. That belief is what made Sandra so good at her job.
But in 2015, a new health department policy put Sandra in a difficult position. Under the policy, nurses would be forced to undergo training on how to refer women to abortion facilities and help them access abortion-inducing drugs.
If she declined to violate her conscience, she would no longer be able to work at the Winnebago County Health Clinic. She had to choose: her beliefs or her job.
Healthcare professionals like Sandra should not be forced to make that choice.
That’s why Sandra filed a lawsuit against the Winnebago County Health Department for violating her rights under Illinois’ Health Care Rights of Conscience Act. Thankfully, a state appeals court recently confirmed the Act’s strong protection for the right of conscience in healthcare, allowing the case to move forward.
As Noel Sterett, an ADF Allied Attorney, put it: “[This is] a win not only for my client Sandra Rojas, but also for all healthcare professionals in Illinois.”
What Sandra had to go through simply for holding true to her convictions should not be repeated. Because she lost her job at the health clinic, she lost the ability to support her family and could no longer pay for her son’s college tuition.
And, unfortunately, Sandra is not the only healthcare professional to face such a situation. Many in the medical community live in fear of losing their jobs simply because of their pro-life beliefs. In fact, ADF has represented several healthcare professionals who have been told to violate their beliefs or forfeit their careers.
And not all doctors or nurses are fortunate enough to have the strong conscience protections that Sandra and others do in Illinois. That’s why ADF is supporting efforts to enact laws similar to Illinois’s in other states.
Regardless of our views on abortion, we should all be able to agree that the government shouldn’t force us to violate our convictions under threat of losing our jobs. We should all be free to live and work according to our beliefs. Protecting that freedom benefits us all.
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