A Roman Catholic nurse in New York is taking legal action after her employers forced her to assist with a late-term abortion.
Hospital officials demanded that Catherina Cenzon-DeCarlo help with the termination of a 22-week pregnancy despite having been aware of her religious objection to abortion since 2004.
When she tried to remind staff at Mount Sinai Hospital of her beliefs she was threatened with the sack.
Mrs Cenzon-DeCarlo had to witness the whole procedure and take the aborted foetus to the specimen room. She says the experience has caused her emotional and psychological trauma.
The nurse’s lawyers say it is illegal in the United States for publicly-funded employers to force staff to act against their religious beliefs.
They say that the procedure was not an immediate emergency and there was “plenty of time” to find a different nurse to assist.
The Alliance Defense Fund (ADF), an American organisation working to defend religious freedoms, has filed a lawsuit against the hospital on Mrs Cenzon-DeCarlo’s behalf.
ADF Legal Counsel Matt Bowman said: “Chasing away workers from the health care field is disastrous health care policy”.
“An individual’s conscience is likely what brought them to the healthcare field. Denying or coercing their conscience will likely drive them right out.”
In the UK the law protects doctors and nurses who conscientiously object to assisting with abortion.
Last May it emerged that three in four terminations of pregnancies at more than 17 weeks were being carried out in the private sector because NHS doctors were unwilling to perform them.
Last year Christian doctor Tammie Downes was investigated by the General Medical Council (GMC) because she had advised women seeking abortions to take time to consider their options.
Dr Downes, who estimates that one in three women changes her mind about abortion when given time to think about alternatives, was cleared of any wrong-doing by the GMC.
However, there have been attempts to force pro-life doctors to advertise their views in surgeries so women seeking information about abortions would see someone else.