Your teachings always bring new light into the understanding of the world through the lens of the holy scripture. Therefore I turn to you with a troubling question.
I work as a medical nurse in a large metropolitan hospital. My specialization is the preparation of the surgical kits for all kinds of operations. This job is essential for the hospital and I feel proud to do my part in saving hundreds of lives daily.
However, from time to time I must prepare the tool set used for abortions. It breaks my heart every time. And even worse, I am afraid I might be complicit in murder of innocent unborn babies. There is no avoiding this situation, since I cannot always choose what instruments to prepare.
Can I even do such a job with clean consciousness? If not, what would you suggest I should do?
May the Lord bless your mission of bringing the jews and christians closer.
Even as we answer your troubling question, we suspect that deep in your heart, you already know the answer. Once this question struck you, it must have started weighing heavily on you each and every workday.
It is ironic, isn’t it, that a vocation you probably chose out of a desire to help others is the method by which you might be participating in causing harm rather than healing? We don’t know if this is a consolation, but you are certainly not alone in your dilemma. Doctors, nurses, social workers and teachers are among those who are having to make the same difficult decision as you are, some concerning abortion and for others, on many similar moral issues. Must I stop doing what I love and risk being able to earn my living in order not to be complicit in evil? Where is the line between keeping my head down and becoming part of wrong? As the quote attributed to Edmund Burke says, “All that is required for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing.” While we can see an argument that someone who may, for example work in the hospital kitchen, isn’t taking an active role in the abortions that take place in that hospital, we’re afraid that you are much closer to the gruesome action. .
Barbara, we see a few paths for you to take, all of which will require faith and fortitude. Do you have a courageous priest, rabbi or pastor who can refer you to some legal advice and religious guidance? We suggest contacting pro-life groups and organizations like the Alliance Defending Freedom to find out if there is a precedent in your state that allows you to recuse yourself from assembling abortion kits. They may also be able to help you craft a polite but firm letter that explains your stand. It is just possible that your plea will be met with understanding.
We would encourage you to challenge yourself as to whether you can be public about your convictions. You may well find that your actions give other medical staff the injection of backbone they need to stand with you. Imagine what would happen if only 10% of the staff took a similar stand?
On a practical note, we recommend researching Catholic hospitals in your area. Personally, we chose to deliver our children in a Catholic hospital. The crucifix over each bed did not trouble us but knowing that the nursing staff helping us deliver at another hospital might be alternating births with abortions ruled out those hospitals for us
Finally, please remember that not all actions are equivalent from a moral perspective. In other words, the medical technician actually terminating a fetus’ life is way more culpable than you are in providing him with the tools. Clearly this is still not something you want to continue doing indefinitely but we think that winding it down judicially and sensitively will work far better than a headlong stampede out the door. Your chances of bringing this to a peaceful and positively influential outcome will be enhanced by a thoughtful and carefully designed approach to the hospital authorities. This will be true even if, in the interim, you have to continue aiding at abortion operations.
Barbara, we’d like to offer one more saying, this one from Shakespeare’s play Twelfth Night. “…some are born great, some achieve greatness, and some have greatness thrust upon ‘em…” Living up to your conscience as God directs it, is a recipe for greatness.
Wishing you great courage,
Rabbi Daniel and Susan Lapin
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