"Nurse Persecuted by Army Hospital for Being Pro-Life"
By Michael F. Flach
ARLINGTON, Va. A nurse's clinical privileges have been
terminated at the Dewitt Army Hospital at Ft. Belvoir, Va., for
refusing to prescribe the abortifacient contraceptive
Depo-Provera. Judith Schiminsky, a Catholic and professed member
of the Third Order of Preachers (Dominicans), has filed an Equal
Employment Opportunity complaint citing discrimination on the
basis of her religious beliefs. A credentials hearing
was scheduled for May 14.
Depo-Provera is a chemical derivative of progesterone which is
injected in a woman once every three months. It makes the lining
of the uterus inhospitable to the fertilized egg and has been
available in Third World countries for over 30
years.It was approved for contraceptive purposes by the U.S. Food
and Drug Administration in 1992 after a lengthy legal battle. It
is attractive to military hospitals because it is an inexpensive,
long-term abortifacient, Schiminsky said.
But its side effects can be devastating. It causes breast cancer
and a majority of women experience infertility after eight months
of injections, she added. Schiminsky, a native of Minneapolis,
received a bachelor's degree from the University of Minnesota and
a master's in nursing from Pace University in New York.
Prior to becoming a nurse practitioner, she taught the
handicapped, learning disabled and the deaf for eight years. She
entered the Third Order of Preachers as a novice in 1987 and made
her perpetual vows in 1991. She attends Sacred Heart Church in
She has been an experienced nurse practitioner for 15 years. She
worked for Georgetown Hospital prior to taking the job at Ft.
Belvoir. A nurse practitioner can do many of the same things as a
doctor, such as administer tests, perform routine examinations
and prescribe medication.
Schiminsky started working at Dewitt Army Hospital on Dec. 26,
1995. In completing the processing forms, she stated that she
promoted Natural Family Planning (NFP), a natural method of
spacing births approved by the Catholic Church. NFP is 98 percent
effective and considered the safest, healthiest family
planning tool by the World Health Organization. She also stated
that she would not prescribe contraceptives, most notably
At a staff meeting on Feb. 26, she was singled out as the only
nurse practitioner (out of six) who did not prescribe
Depo-Provera. From that time until her notification on March 29
that her clinical privileges had been terminated, Schiminsky said
she was the subject of a campaign to drive her out of the
military clinic. Her superiors began to question her competency
and whether or not she could be a "full service" provider if she
would not prescribe contraceptives.
"Ft. Belvoir officials could have terminated me at any time since
I was on a 90-day probation period," she said, "but they decided
to attack my competency." Schiminsky maintains there is no
incidence of malpractice or substance abuse involved in her case.
"We're dealing with a Catholic identity issue," said
Schiminsky, who attends daily Mass and wears a cross and scapular
around her neck.
If the May 14 hearing does not restore her privileges at Ft.
Belvoir, Schiminsky fears the next step could be an attempt to
revoke her nurse practitioner's license. If the case goes to the
state board, it could jeopardize her employment as a nurse
practitioner at any hospital or clinic in the nation.
She is currently seeking expert medical witnesses to appear at
the May 14 hearing, preferably ex-military or non-military
doctors or nurse practitioners. Anyone who can assist her should
"Will nurses and doctors who cannot in good conscience condone or
assist in any kind of abortion be required to go along or lose
their jobs?" Schiminsky asked. "Is the U.S. military now going to
recognize chemical as well as surgical abortions? What will the
military's position be on RU-486, cytotec and methodtrexate, all
of which are expected to be approved (by the FDA) at the
end of this year?"
Despite the impending hearing, Schiminsky continues to work at
Ft. Belvoir's EKG unit.
This article appeared in the May 3, 1996 issue of "The Arlington Catholic Herald."
Courtesy of the "Arlington Catholic Herald" diocesan newspaper of the Arlington (VA)
diocese. For subscription information, call 1-800-377-0511 or write 200 North Glebe
Road, Suite 607 Arlington, VA 22203.
Copyright (c) 1996 EWTN