A trial court in Illinois has ruled that Winnebago County must pay more than $370,000 in attorneys’ fees for violating the legally protected freedoms of a Christian a pediatric nurse who was ordered to refer women for abortions or provide abortifacient contraceptives against her religious beliefs and conscience.
Circuit Court Judge Eugene Doherty ruled last week that the Winnebago County Health Department must pay $374,000 to the attorneys of Sandra Rojas, who worked with the department for 18 years, said legal group Alliance Defending Freedom, whose attorneys served as co-counsel for Rojas, in a statement.
Eighteen years into the job, the nurse faced the country health department’s new requirement forcing nurses to undergo training on how to refer women to abortion facilities and help them access abortifacient contraceptives.
The department refused to accommodate her objections of conscience in her existing job at the clinic and fired her from her job, following which she sought protection under the Illinois Health Care Right of Conscience Act.
“Medical professionals should never be forced to engage in or promote activities that violate their beliefs or convictions,” ADF Senior Counsel Kevin Theriot said.
“Sandra served as a nurse according to her conscience and religion — a right for medical providers that is protected under Illinois and federal law,” Theriot added. “The court’s fee award sends a clear message that health care workers are free to practice medicine in a manner consistent with their conscience and religious beliefs, and there will be a steep penalty if the government fails to respect that legally protected freedom.
Lead counsel in the case, Noel Sterett, from Dalton & Tomich, said, “Healthcare professionals should not be required to violate their conscience to keep their jobs. We hope the outcome of this case will encourage other public and private health care employers to respect their employees’ rights of conscience.”
Last November, the 17th Judicial Circuit Court in Winnebago County ruled in favor of Rojas and wrote: “The Health Department improperly discriminated against [Rojas] by refusing to accommodate her objections of conscience in her existing job at the clinic. The Court has concluded that the Health Department could have reasonably accommodated [Rojas’] objections without removing her from her job.”
“No American should be forced to refer for abortions or assist patients in accessing abortifacients — least of all medical workers who entered the profession to follow their faith and save lives, not take them,” Sterett said at the time. “The court’s decision is a win for all healthcare professionals throughout Illinois. Healthcare professionals should not be required to violate their conscience to keep their jobs.”