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Cathy DeCarlo

Cathy DeCarlo

Cathy became a nurse to save lives, but her world crumbled around her when her supervisors demanded that she take a life, or lose her job.

Standing in the rubble of her high school in the Philippines just moments after a devastating earthquake, Cathy watched in fascination as medical teams rescued her classmates. That day, she decided to become a nurse.  Her dream of saving lives led her to leave her family and country to move to New York City to work as an operating room nurse.


When she was hired in 2004, Cathy made it clear: “I don’t do abortions.” At the time, the hospital assured her she would never have to compromise her devout Catholic faith, but times changed. One morning five years later, Cathy prepared for a common procedure following a miscarriage, only to realize that the procedure was going to be performed on a live pre-born baby at 22 weeks. Horrified, she called the resident doctor on duty, then her supervisor, who told her to call her supervisor.

When that supervisor informed her that Cathy would have to assist with the abortion, Cathy reminded her in tears about her agreement with the hospital. She pointed out that the surgery was labeled a Category II, meaning it could take place anytime over the next six hours – plenty of time to call another nurse. But the supervisor insisted that this was an emergency -- the mother’s life hung in the balance. If 
Cathy didn’t assist in this life-or-death situation, she told her, she would be charged with insubordination and abandoning her patient. Her career would be over.

Cathy decided to trust her supervisors, but as soon as she saw the patient, she knew she made a mistake. The woman’s life was clearly not in danger, but at that point, there was no going back. She watched in horror as the doctor dismembered and removed the bloody limbs, and then she had to account for all the pieces. “It was like something out of a horror film,” she said.

That night, she found Alliance Defending Freedom. Two days later, with the help of Alliance Defending Freedom, she filed complaints against her supervisors for forcing her to violate her faith. After an investigation, Mount Sinai Hospital changed its policies to protect the rights of all medical personnel. Not only can they now object to participating in abortions, they can do so even in an emergency.

Cathy still has nightmares about her horrific experience, but she can rest assured that because of her stand, many other pro-life nurses won’t have to go through what she did.

Find out more about the sanctity of human life

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