Hospital apologizes to nurses over abortion decision

April 28, 2010 3:45:46 PM PDT
A hospital on Long Island issued an apology Wednesday for disciplining nurses who refused to participate in an abortion. Nassau University Medical Center now says the nurses did nothing wrong when they said they morally opposed taking part.

It's been the hottest of hot button issues for years. The dust, is now only settling after a fight over abortion between Nassau University Medical Center and the union representing its nurses.

"Quite frankly, it's even difficult for me to talk about, cause it's not a good issue," said Jerry Laricchiuta, the President of CSEA Local 830.

Laricchiuta sees a lot of discipline cases cross his desk. This one is especially sensitive. Nine of his members were suspended by NUMC, for refusing to take part in an abortion.

"We are here to protect our workers rights, and our members have the right to object to perform an abortion if they so choose," explained Laricchiuta.

At the root of this case, is a heartbreaking story. A pregnant woman checked herself in when her water broke at just 14 weeks. A fetus isn't viable outside the womb until 16 weeks. Doctors said the baby simply would not survive. So, instead of waiting days for the mother to give birth, they recommended an abortion, and she agreed.

But in labor and delivery, nine nurses on duty refused to assist because the baby still had a heartbeat, and the mother's life was not in jeopardy. Still, the hospital suspended them all.

"It was clear that management had the wrong set of facts," said NUMC CEO, Arthur Gianelli.

Weeks later, Gianelli admitted, it was all a management mix-up. Nursing managers had thought the mother was in danger when she really was not.

Once the union stepped in, the hospital reversed the suspension. Gianelli also personally apologized to all nine nurses while promising a full review.

"I made the determination that these disciplines were not in order, we rescinded the disciplines and apologized directly to the nurses because I felt they were owed that, quite frankly," said Gianelli.