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ADF rebuts NY hospital’s claim that pro-life nurse can’t sue

ADF attorneys respond to claims of Mount Sinai Hospital
Cenzon-DeCarlo v. The Mount Sinai Hospital

NEW YORK — Alliance Defense Fund attorneys submitted a brief in federal court Monday in response to the claim of New York’s Mount Sinai Hospital that a pro-life nurse who sued the hospital has no right to defend herself in court. ADF filed suit after the hospital forced senior nurse Cathy Cenzon-DeCarlo to participate in a late-term abortion procedure.

“Pro-life nurses shouldn’t be forced to assist in abortions against their beliefs. Nonetheless, Mount Sinai Hospital is multiplying its injustices against nurse Cathy Cenzon-DeCarlo,” said ADF Legal Counsel Matt Bowman. “First it disregarded Cathy’s conscience; now it argues she can’t go to court to defend her rights. Mount Sinai Hospital does not have the right to disregard federal law and then refuse to face the consequences of its actions.”

Administrators at Mount Sinai Hospital threatened Cenzon-DeCarlo with disciplinary measures if she did not honor a last-minute summons to assist in a scheduled late-term abortion. Despite the fact that the patient was apparently not in crisis at the time of the surgery, the hospital insisted on her participation in the procedure on the grounds that it was an “emergency,” even though the procedure was not classified by the hospital as such. ADF attorneys filed suit on behalf of Cenzon-DeCarlo in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of New York on July 21.

Attorneys for the hospital submitted a brief to the court Aug. 10 arguing that the lawsuit should be dismissed because the federal law at issue “does not grant individual litigants a private right of action.”

ADF attorneys responded to the brief Monday, noting, “Mount Sinai’s compulsion violates 42 U.S.C. § 300a-7(c), ‘the Church Amendment’ (named after Senator Frank Church). This law provides that no recipient of federal health funds may discriminate in the employment or privileges of its health care personnel because of their religious objection to abortion. The law contains no exception letting Mount Sinai compel assistance based on their unbridled judgment that abortion is an ‘emergency.’ Mount Sinai’s actions are a quintessential example of discriminating in employment and privileges on condition that Mrs. DeCarlo violate her objection to abortion.”

The ADF brief goes on to explain that “Mount Sinai compounds its contempt of the law” by denying that the law allows Cenzon-DeCarlo to defend her conscience rights. The brief points out that a federal court just this year “not only recognized an individual right, but allowed the plaintiff (in that case an abortion supporter) to seek punitive damages.” It also points out that the federal law involves all of the factors that the U.S. Supreme Court has used to recognize such rights and that Congress obviously intended to protect individuals from discrimination under the law it created.

New York ADF-allied attorneys Joseph Ruta and Piero Tozzi are serving as local counsel in the case, Cenzon-DeCarlo v. The Mount Sinai Hospital. The court will hold a pre-trial conference on Sept. 10.

ADF is a legal alliance of Christian attorneys and like-minded organizations defending the right of people to freely live out their faith. Launched in 1994, ADF employs a unique combination of strategy, training, funding, and litigation to protect and preserve religious liberty, the sanctity of life, marriage, and the family.

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Matt Bowman
Matt Bowman
Senior Counsel, Director of Regulatory Practice
Matt Bowman serves as senior counsel and director of regulatory practice at Alliance Defending Freedom, where he focuses on the impact of administrative law on religious freedom, the sanctity of life, and family.