December 19, 2022

Pro-Life Nurse Practitioner Sues VA Over Abortion Policy, Religious Liberties

Pro-Life Nurse Practitioner Sues VA Over Abortion Policy, Religious Liberties

U.S. Army veteran and Nurse Practitioner, Stephanie Carter is suing U.S. Secretary of Veterans Affairs Denis Richard McDonough, and the Department of Veterans Affairs. Carter claims the decision to offer abortion services to veterans violated her religious beliefs. As a result, she felt like she was in a “crisis of conscience” every day.

The lawsuit was filed in federal court in Waco, Texas. 

“We are asking the court to stop this rule from being enforced at the facility where Ms. Carter works,” says Carter’s attorney, Danielle Runyan with First Liberty Institute.

Carter’s lawsuit claims that her "sincerely held religious beliefs prohibit her from offering abortion services and providing counseling required by application" of the policy, which the VA announced in September. The lawsuit claims that the VA policy regarding abortions violates Carter's rights under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act. Furthermore, it claims that the VA has no process to receive religious accommodation requests from healthcare workers regarding the abortion policy.

After Roe v. Wade was overturned by the U.S. Supreme Court, a trigger law banning abortions went into effect in Texas. Performing an abortion in Texas is now a felony punishable by up to life in prison; however, the law does provide limited exceptions in cases when the procedure would save the life of the mother.

The VA in turn announced that it will offer abortion counseling and abortions in certain cases to pregnant veterans and beneficiaries. Abortions can be provided if the life or health of the veteran is endangered if the pregnancy were carried to term or if the pregnancy is the result of rape or incest, according to a September 2nd news release.

"From the moment VA announced this new rule, Secretary [Denis] McDonough has made clear to all employees that their religious beliefs are protected here at VA," a spokesperson for the VA said. "While we cannot comment on ongoing litigation, VA does provide accommodation for VA employees who wish to opt-out of providing abortion counseling or services. We are currently honoring exemption requests that come through VA supervisors."

The lawsuit is requesting the federal court to rule the VA policy is illegal and ban all abortions at the Olin E. Teague Veterans' Center, Carter’s place of employment. 

According to Carter’s Linkedin page, she has worked within the VA since June 1996, first as a nurse and then as a nurse practitioner. She also has experience as a Nurse Supervisor at the Doris Miller VA. After earning her associate's degree at Temple College, Carter earned her RN at the University of Phoenix, and then her MSN Family Nurse Practitioner in 2016 from Chamberlain College of Nursing.

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