This week, the leftist blog Wonkette posted a story about a woman who was seeking a family planning job at a clinic in Florida. As Wonkette tells it, the woman was applying for a job at a family planning center, but had a religious objection to any kind of medical family planning. The director of the company politely pointed this out, whereupon the woman asked about a different job.
The company refused to proceed with an interview.
The woman, and the ADF, is suing the clinic for religious discrimination.
It sounds ridiculous, right?
I thought so too, so I had originally written an article explaining that this woman doesn’t have a right to a job, that her religious objections don’t entitle her to get paid to do a job that she refuses to perform, and that while I have a problem with a government forcing her to act against her religious convictions, I have no problem with a private employer not hiring her if she won’t do what they ask her to do.
The problem is that I was objecting to a situation that didn’t exist.
Wonkette’s story is a lie.
First off, the story isn’t worth reading. It’s at least 30% vitriol and self-righteous anger. If you feel uplifted by reading that sort of thing, I’m sure you can find it.
However, the real problem with the Wonkette article is that it is extremely misleading, yet most other media sources that have picked up the story have taken Wonkette’s claims about the situation at face value.
Wonkette’s claim was that this woman was applying for a family planing job at a women’s clinic, and she was, in effect, applying for a job that she entirely refused to do, and that the director who dismissed her application after learning about her religious affiliation was some kind of saint for even putting up with her as long as he did.
Here is information from the organization filing the lawsuit.
Here is the text of the legal complaint, including the email exchange between the applicant and the organization.
Here are some of the things that Wonkette lied about
First, the job in question is not a family planner. The job in question is for a Certified Nurse Midwife. Do you know what a certified Nurse Midwife does? Here is one description:
- A certified nurse-midwife provides prenatal, labor and delivery care to pregnant woman. Most CNMs work under a doctor and deliver infants in a hospital setting. However, some CNMs also work in birthing centers or provide services in a patient’s home.
- The duties of a CNM are very similar to those of an obstetrician. CNMs can prescribe medicine, monitor a pregnancy and handle all aspects of labor, delivery and postpartum care for their patients.
Now, given that the job description says “care for pregnant women”, how often do you think a Certified Nurse-Midwife needs to be willing to prescribe birth control?
It seems that, contrary to the Wonkette article, someone could be a very successful CNM without ever prescribing any medicine at all. Indeed, CNMs don’t even have the authority to write prescriptions in many states.
So, it seems that Wonkette is flagrantly lying about the nature of the job in question. The entirety of the job is not prescribing abortificant drugs. It may not even include that responsibility at all.
Second, Wonkette failed to disclose that the clinic in question is publicly funded.
My original objection — that a private enterprise ought to be able to hire or fire who it likes, for whatever reasons it likes — doesn’t apply here, because we’re talking about a clinic that is largely supported by strings-attached federal dollars. In fact, it is a 503c non-profit clinic.
The court has decided, on many occasions, that entities which receive federal funding can expect to get regulated good and hard by the federal government. This is the reason that, for instance, the very conservative Hillsdale College, accepts no federal scholarships of any kind. To allow otherwise would expose them to federal oversight that they cannot tolerate.
In the case of the Florida health clinic, what strings are attached to this federal money? For one, job applicants may not be discriminated against based on their religious affiliation.
This woman said she was a member of an organization. The director said that because of her membership, he could not proceed with the interview process. Here is the relevant text of his response:
“Due to the fact we are a Title X organization and you are an member of AAPLOG, we would be unable to move forward in the interviewing process.”
Just what is Title X? Title X is a federal government program, authorized by President Nixon, that makes funding available for family planning services for low-income families, including birth control.
Critically, Title X funding cannot be used to pay for abortions.
The plaintiff in this case specifically said that she had no problem with birth control, providing birth control, or counseling patients about birth control. The entirety of her objection was to prescribing drugs she felt were abortificants, and even then, only in situations where she felt a pregnancy would be terminated.
Since Title X disallows funding to be used for paying for abortions, and her disclosed objections were to providing abortions, it’s not clear why the director felt that Title X prevented him from hiring this woman.
Third, Wonkette failed to disclose that the suit claims the defendant violated Florida statue 390.0111(8). This statute claims that the law shall not require “any person to participate in the termination of a pregnancy” and “the refusal of any such person or employee to participate shall not form the basis for any disciplinary or other recriminatory action against such person”
So here’s the bottom line.
This woman applied for a job as a certified nurse midwife — a job that deals primarily with women who are already pregnant. The only thing she appears to object to is providing abortions. The place she applied for a job is a non-profit that receives federal funding, and subject to federal and state anti-discrimination laws. The reason she was turned down was because of affiliation with a religious group. Finally, the director implied that her refusal to perform abortions was in conflict with Title X funding, which is astonishing since Title X disallows funding abortions.
I think she has an interesting case. I would prefer that the situation did not exist — that the health provider was entirely private. I would prefer that the health provider was not subject to any hiring/firing laws. I would prefer that the woman didn’t feel so entitled to a job that she is filing this lawsuit.
But federal law does exist, and this woman appears to be on the correct side of it.
It is encouraging that people of all persuasions look at the case as presented as Wonkette — about a woman who wants to get paid for doing a job she refuses to do — and react negatively to it.
The problem is, Wonkette’s take is a fabrication. The actual case is more interesting.
I think it deserves another look.