Pro-life woman denied employment by Florida health center

A Florida health center has allegedly refused an applicant employment based on her pro-life view and unwillingness to prescribe contraception that could cause the death of a human embryo. In a federal lawsuit filed by Alliance Defending Freedom, attorneys note that the human resources director of Tampa Family Health Centers questioned applicant Sara Hellwege about her involvement with the American Association of Pro-Life Obstetricians and Gynecologists, a pro-life organization.

When Hellwege, who submitted an application for a nurse-midwife position, confirmed her membership with AAPLOG, the director notified her in an e-mail that she was rejected due to her involvement with the organization.

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,” said Matt Bowman, Senior Legal Counsel with ADF.

Attorneys note that the health center violated multiple federal laws by refusing Hellwege employment because of her religious and pro-life views. The lawsuit, Hellwege v. Tampa Family Health Centers, was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Florida, Tampa Division, 

ADF also filed complaints on behalf of Hellwege with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission field office in Tampa and with the Department of Health and Human Services. 

Tampa Family Health Centers are federally funded. 

Willingness to commit an abortion cannot be a litmus test for employment,” said ADF Senior Counsel Steven H. Aden. “All we are asking is for the health center to obey the law and not make a nurse’s employment contingent upon giving up her respect for life.”

  • Lilian

    Well, this is interesting.

    Private corporations needn’t be mandated to cover certain forms of birth prevention, and they needn’t be mandated to hire someone who wouldn’t prescribe certain forms of birth prevention.

    That said, we’re speaking of a federally funded business. Whatever that means in regards to this discussion. Even if it is federally funded, it is not federally owned.

    Employment isn’t a right, especially not employment at any given place. I don’t think people should be forced to hire workers they do not wish to hire.

    • MamaBear

      I think the difference is that they are federally funded. In education, if a particular program is federally funded, they get to call the shots.

      • Lilian

        Well, if that is the law as it now stands…

        • MamaBear

          If you take federal funds, you are considered to be agreeing to any strings they attach to those funds.

    • john lind

      Lilian, I agree with you. Nobody should have the right to be hired or interviewed for any reason. Though I was happy with the HL SCOTUS ruling, it would have be nice if it had been decided on property and free association rights rather than religious conscience rights.

      • Lilian

        Us libertarians ought to stick together. We’re redheaded stepchildren of American politics. ;-)

        • john lind

          Lilian, I agree. I think us libertarian Christians have it even tougher. I tell some fellow Evangelicals that I’m a libertarian and they hear “satanist”:)

          I’ve noticed anecdotally, that pro-life libertarians are less likely to endorse a rape/incest exception than pro-life conservatives. Have you seen that?

          • Lilian

            I take it that you do not endorse such an exception?

          • john lind

            Correct. I think the only just reason for abortion is self-defense; if continuing the pregnancy will put the woman in bodily danger, it is not unjust to kill the child through abortion.

  • tigalily

    I am confused. Why would she want to work there?

    • john lind

      That’s a fair question. I would ask why anybody that was unhappy with HL’s choices in their health insurance plan would not simply seek employment with an employer that offered different choices instead of crying and moaning about their reproductive health rights being violated and screaming about the imaginary “war on women.”

      • tigalily

        Because their wages are going towards those premiums for health insurance. Why would a woman pay for health insurance, when the main feature is something she can’t access? You think women like their wages going towards a man’s viagra, condoms and penile pumps (all covered by HL’s health insurance plan)? I think it would be fair if women could opt OUT of HL’s health insurance. However…that defeats how health insurance operates.

        • Lilian

          Your not financing something for me does not mean you are denying my access to it. It just means you aren’t buying it for me.

          If I worked for you and your insurance plan didn’t cover the form of contraceptive I want (by the way, HL provides coverage for 16 of the 20 FDA-approved contraceptives), you wouldn’t be “denying access” to my preferred contraceptive. You just wouldn’t be buying it for me. That’s not denying access.

          I would still have access to the contraceptive, as I would still be able to get it. You aren’t preventing me from driving to the pharmacy to buy it. You aren’t legally forbidding me from buying it. You would be giving me paychecks with which I could do what I liked, and that would include buying the contraceptive you don’t cover in your insurance plan.

          Again: Not buying something for someone is not tantamount to denying them access.

        • Lilian

          Women who wish to *can* opt out of HL’s health insurance. We are not required by law to work for HL. We are not required by law to seek out employment at HL. We are agents, free to weigh our own options and make our own decisions.

          HL should be free to provide whatever health coverage (or lack thereof – why should health insurance be required of employers anyway?) they choose. HL is made of people too, and not all of them are male.

          If a woman (or man) working for HL does not approve of the coverage she (or he) receives, they are free to seek employment for someone offering coverage more suited to their desires.

          There is no need to legislate this unless someone is infringing upon the life, liberty, property, and body of another without their consent. HL has not done this.

          • john lind

            Precise and succinct!

            The implementation of Obamacare has added more evidence that a significant number of proponents of feticide are clearly not pro-choice but are truly pro-feticide. Anybody that thinks that Government (a group of people with guns who can take away your liberty or property) should have the power to force someone to buy health insurance or the power to force an employer to offer health insurance features that they do not want to offer, is clearly not for choice!

        • PJ4

          Am I reading you right?
          The main feature of health insurance for a woman is birth control?
          Since when?

          How do you know if HL really covers penis pumps and Viagra?
          Is it only mentioned in LWNJ blogs or do you have done real evidence for your claim?

          If the answer is yes, maybe she does want that covered for her husband?

          • MamaBear

            Contrary to the opinion of the young feminazis, Viagra and penile pumps are just as much for women as men, because there are some “selfish old biddies” out there who still want to have fun, and they don’t want to do it alone.

          • PJ4

            Love it!

          • Lilian

            People seem to keep forgetting that sexual intercourse requires two people.

          • john lind

            The HL ruling is unfair. I bet now, every guy that wants a penis pump will be deprived because the insurance plan will only cover 20 of the 24 models that are available.

            Also, can I sue somebody because the anti-spam filter on my computer is depriving me of my God-given, natural, State-granted right to view every penis pump available?

        • Griffonn

          Do you understand what health insurance is?

          Your argument is the equivalent of saying that the reason for buying car insurance is so that you don’t have to buy windshield wiper fluid for your car.

        • Ingrid Heimark

          So the IUD and morning after pill is the main features of health insurance. Stupid me who thought it was services covering infections, cancer, accidents, mental health services etc….

          • MamaBear

            Of course IUDs and morning after pills are THE reason for health insurance.
            Because all those cancer patients don’t really need any but the oldest cheapest and least effective drugs offered per drug category (as allowed by ACA), but they really need all that free birth control!
            And those higher out-of-pocket costs that many insurance companies went to, because they need to make up for free birth control coverage, that is just what those young families with kids who are always catching stuff and accident victims who are already losing wages by going past their paid sick days need.

        • MamaBear

          For many years, very few health insurances covered contraceptives. At one time, for most of us, they were all out of pocket. (And there was no Viagra back then.)
          At my last job, I did not like the health insurance for a number of reasons. I opted to not even take it and be on my husband’s instead. (At least three other teachers in just my school had decided the same.) I did not get a penny extra pay by not being on it. It was a benefit, chosen and purchased by my employer. I could accept it or choose to not take it.

          Typically, employers cover the employee’s medical insurance, and the employee pays (often at a reduced rate) for his/her other family members. Vision and dental insurances are often added at a subsidized out-of-pocket cost to employees.

          I don’t need birth control or maternity coverage at my age, and if we were purchasing private insurance, we would look for insurance without it. But, employers purchase a package of insurance for all employees and their dependents, so it is part of the insurance package we get through my husband’s employer. Everyone gets the same package. (Some large employers may offer a couple of choices.) Hobby Lobby covers maternity, even if the employee is post menopausal or a single guy. They cover 16 birth controls (out of 20). If they cover Viagra and penile pumps for men, then it is covered for all employees, just like maternity and birth control are covered for all employees.

          Incidentally, ACA does not require vasectomies (or reversals) or condoms be covered for men, and most insurance does not cover those.

          • john lind

            I need to find somebody to sue. My wife and I only use condoms. My employer, the health insurance company, or other taxpayers owe me!

            Oh wait, no they don’t because provision of condoms for me by others is not a right and nobody has voluntarily obligated themselves under a contract to provide me condoms.

            Never mind.

          • MamaBear

            A recently diagnosed lady in my support group was telling us she had been approved for a state program for uninsured cancer patients. We were all relieved and happy for her. That is because like most Americans, we are compassionate people who want people with life threatening illnesses provided for. Because people in that program are low income, all cancer related expenses will be covered for her 100%, no copays or deductibles or out-of-pockets. Again, that is a good thing. No one wants people choosing between life-saving treatments or food or rent.

            Then she began complaining about how her expenses before acceptance to the program were not covered retroactively. Doctors had given her breaks and she only owed $500 and could take time to pay it, which in cancerland is a bargain. What was clearly going through our “privileged” insured heads at that point, if she had looked at faces, were thousands of dollars out-of-pockets that we have each year.
            We did not resent what she was given. But we did resent that she was upset it wasn’t enough, that she felt entitled more than grateful.

            I think that is part of the problem here. People feel whatever they want is an entitlement. They resent being asked to take some responsibility. We all see a need for the truly sick and injured to be cared for. It is that attitude of entitlement.

          • john lind

            Yep, people believe these days that they are entitled to positive rights (legal right to force others to provide for them), rather than negative rights (right to be free from aggression from others).

            Reflecting on Independence Day, I often wonder if the colonists were a lot freer under British rule than we are under a “constitutional republic” these days.

        • Calvin Freiburger

          1.) HL’s health insurance already covered, and continues to cover, numerous forms of female contraception.

          2.) Show me a federal law or regulation MANDATING that businesses insure Viagra, condoms, or penile pumps, and I guarantee the same people opposed to the contraception mandate would criticize that too.

    • DINORightMarie

      A nurse-midwife is a specially trained (often certified) midwife. Midwives do OB/GYN type work (exams and such), but they are NOT doctors. By definition, they are particularly focused on babies, a mother’s health, and birth – specifically the natural birth process. They are not usually consulted by women who are not pregnant, or women who wish to end a pregnancy. Women who seek out a nurse-midwife usually want a more natural, non-medical option for the birth of their babies.

      Like PAs, they are often given (depending on the state’s licensing laws and such) prescription privileges, as a special class of nurses with extra medical training, and are often able to prescribe certain limited medications. As she apparently clearly noted in her email correspondence, Ms. Hellwege was willing to counsel, prescribe, and discuss contraceptives and birth control with any and all women she saw.

      As a midwife, she loves mothers-to-be, babies, and helping in the miracle of birth with aiding in delivering them in a healthy, non-invasive, loving way. That’s why she chose to do what she does, to become a nurse-midwife. If she doesn’t want to prescribe certain medications, that should NOT be a problem – that is NOT what midwives typically do!!

      Also, if a patient doesn’t wish to see a midwife, if she has a conflict……that is why they have doctors and other staff!!! I would myself personally seek out a midwife – and in particular one with her moral and ethical views, since I love babies.

  • Ingrid Heimark

    I don’t think I would want to work at a place I wasn’t welcome….

  • Peter J Macander


  • MamaBear

    Tampa Family Health Centers is no little clinic where this nurse would be an only nurse. There are 13 clinics and they list their services as everything from family medicine to obstetrics to pediatrics to dentistry. They provide gynecological care, including contraceptives, but do not advertise abortion (at least as abortion) on their website. Just quickly looking over the website, nothing stood out as a red flag saying if you are pro-life, do not work here.
    And again, if you accept federal funds, even if they are not your main source of funding, you must follow federal guidelines.

  • timpundit

    What idiot applies for a job that they already know they cannot morally perform? Talk about frivolous lawsuits,

  • David
  • 2Well

    This is a Title X clinic, which means it is required to provide contraception for any reason. Why should they have to hire someone who cannot perform that job function? It would be like hiring a pro-life doctor at an abortion clinic when you are specifically looking for someone to perform abortions.

  • DINORightMarie

    This is also a 1st amendment issue due to the discrimination of this woman based on her associations – she has the freedom to associate with this legitimate group, and there is nothing that this group or her membership implies that she is not qualified, not able to do her job. Both her religious freedom and her freedom of association are under assault by this discrimination.

  • Robert Wilt

    Okay listen, you wouldn’t hire a pediatrician if she refused to give someone antibiotics, would you? Would you hire a doctor who was an anti-vaxer? Would you hire a surgeon with religious objections to pain killers? No, you wouldn’t. But now that someone doesn’t want to provide contraception, but wants a job where providing contraception is in the job description, and they deny her desire to have that job, you freak out? Come on, stop imposing factually incorrect, objectively misinformed beliefs on the populace.