Sara Hellwege is suing the Tampa Family Health Centers in Tampa, Florida, for allegedly not hiring her as a nurse-midwife because she is pro-life and refuses to prescribe certain hormonal birth control drugs that she claims could lead to an abortion.
However, the Tampa Family Health Centers' director of human resources politely explained to Hellwege via email in April that it provides birth control to its patients, and expects its employees to do so as well.
Tampa Family Health Centers also asked Hellwege about her membership in the American Association of Pro-Life Obstetricians and Gynecologists (AAPLOG), which was information that Hellwege volunteered. Hellwege confirmed she was a member.
The Tampa Family Health Centers' director of human resources replied in part, "Due to the fact that… you are a member of AAPLOG, we would be unable to move forward in the interviewing process.”
Hellwege then wrote in an email:
To clarify, I am not merely seeking a position that encompasses antepartum & laborist care only. I was asking about that option only so I would know if it was available. I would still desire to apply for a position that includes postpartum & well woman/preventative care as well as antepartum & laborist care, within the religious and moral parameters I stated previously. With that clarification, is it still possible for me to move forward in your application process?
The Tampa Family Health Centers had previously explained their position to Hellwege, and did not reply.
In response, Hellwege filed a lawsuit claiming she had “suffered and continues to suffer injury and irreparable harm.”
Hellwege is represented by the Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF), a Christian-based law firm.
“No one deserves to suffer discrimination just because they’re pro-life,” ADF Senior Legal Counsel Matt Bowman said in a recent press release. “Federal and state law make it clear that being pro-abortion cannot be a prerequisite for employment, nor can federally funded facilities force nurses to assist with practices that could lead to an abortion.”
However, Gregory Lipper, senior litigation counsel for Americans United for Separation of Church and State, told Wonkette.com, "This lawsuit distorts the noble cause of religious liberty in an effort to further advance the Religious Right’s assault on birth control. The plaintiff wants to work at a federally funded women’s health center, yet refuses to prescribe any form of hormonal birth control.
"The lawsuit equates prescribing birth control with performing an abortion, without even the slightest scientific basis," Lipper added. "For the Religious Right, it’s not enough that women’s bosses can strip them of coverage for contraception, now, they want to allow women’s healthcare professionals to withhold contraception too. And they want to force the government to subsidize a healthcare worker who refuses to do her job. Even after Hobby Lobby, this lawsuit retires the trophy for chutzpah."