Pro-Life Nurse Sues Clinic After HR Rudely Refuses Her Resume Over Minor Birth Control Objections

midwife and pregnant mom

According to a press release from the ironically named religious watch dog group Alliance Defending Freedom or ADF, a pro-life nurse is suing Tampa Family Health Center, a Florida-based family planning clinic, for refusing to consider her application for a certified midwife nurse position. She claims the center only declined her application after discovering that she has a faith-based objection to prescribing certain forms of birth control. When I first read about this case, I wondered why a pro-life nurse would even consider working at a family planning clinic, and I honestly suspected some legal shenanigans were at play to make the clinic look bad. Then I read the email chain between the nurse, Sara Hellwege, and the Director of Human Resources at the clinic, Chad Lindsey. Now not only do I think Hellwege has a decent case, but I think it’s pretty clear that some discrimination did go on.

As anyone who even casually follows my work knows, I am stridently, vocally pro-choice. And for the most part I believe that anyone with religious objections to abortion or birth control should probably not be working in a family planning center. That would be like a vegetarian applying for a butcher position and then refusing to touch meat. But that isn’t what happened here. She is also not suing for “not being hired,” which is how many media sources are reporting it. Hellwege is suing because her application was only denied once her connection to a faith-based pro-life organization was discovered.

According to the email chain provided by ADF, Lindsey seemed very interested in Hellwege’s resume. Numerous emails go back and forth between the two, with Lindsey asking various questions about Hellwege’s qualifications and other administrative concerns. Then Lindsey notices Hellewege’s affiliation with the American Association of Pro-Life Obstetricians and Gynecologists (AAPLOG). Lindsey’s concerns are understandable, seeing as Tampa Family Health Center is a Title X status facility, which means they receive federal grants for providing comprehensive family planning and other related preventative health services to low-income individuals. When Lindsay asks Hellwege whether her pro-life beliefs would cause her to “decline an interview if offered one”, citing the facilities Title X status, her response is concise and, at least in my opinion, perfectly reasonable:

Sara Hellwege email 1

Hi Mr. Lindsey,

Thanks for such a timely response. Yes, I am a member of AAPLOG. Due to religious guidelines, I am able to counsel women regarding all forms of contraception, however, cannot Rx it unless pathology exists – however have no issue with barrier methods & sterilization. If offered an interview, is there a position available for antepartum & laborist only, or do all CNMs perform postpartum & well woman/preventative care?”

To which Lindsey answered:

Sara Hellwege email 2

“Good morning,

Due to the fact we are a Title X organization and you are a member of AAPLOG we would be unable to move forward in the interviewing process. An unfortunately, we do not have any positions for antepartum & laborist only. 

Good luck in your future endeavors.”

I think the wording here is seriously shady. No where does Hellwege say that she is only interested in antepartum and laborist positions, she merely asks whether these positions are available. The fact that Lindsey immediately shuts her down due to her affiliation with a religious group is very problematic. Hellwege goes on to clarify her previous email here:

Sara Hellwege email 4

Dear Mr. Lindsey,

To clarify, I am not merely seeking a position that encompasses antepartum & laborist care only. I was asking about that option only so I would know if it was available. I would still desire to apply for a position that includes postpartum & well woman/preventative care as well as antepartum & laborist care, within the religious and moral parameters I stated previously. With that clarification, is it still possible for me to move forward in your application process?”

Still a very reasonable question, if you ask me. She’s not insisting she be hired, only asking for the opportunity to be considered, something Lindsey seemed eager to do only a few emails prior to this. Lindsey never responded after this point.

Now, I am as liberal as they come, but the way certain liberal media sources are reporting on this case is reprehensible. Hellwege isn’t some entitled pro-life drama queen insisting on being hired for a job she refuses to do. Hellwege isn’t asking to be hired at all, only considered. And it’s clear to me from this chain of emails that if she wasn’t affiliated with a religious group, she most likely would have been considered. Not only that, but Hellwege seemed more than willing to compromise with this facility to perform the job required. Unlike what many media sources have reported, Hellwege never refused to prescribe ALL forms of birth control, merely anything that may lead to abortion. She is also willing to counsel patients on ALL forms of BC, including abortifacients.

If you’re a masochist that likes to torture yourself with legalese, you can read the official complain here.

Do I agree with Hellwege? No, I do not. Do I think plenty of conservative media sources are exaggerating the degree to which she was discriminated against? Of course they are. But whether or not you or I or Lindsey agrees with her moral opinions is irrelevant. She was discriminated against, plain and simple, and that’s not okay. Even if he didn’t mean to be discriminatory, his poor choice of words and lack of a response to Hellwege’s final email have opened this organization up to legal action, which is unfortunate because they seem to do great work.

(Photo: Monkey Business Images/Shutterstock)

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  • tired of it all

    The only reason this woman wants to work for the clinic is so that she can sabotoge other women. If you refuse to perscribe birth control you have no business applying for a job at a family planning clinic. They have every right to not even consider her application. She only applied because some lawyers put her up to drumming up a fake lawsuit

  • big ed 59

    You were wondering why she wanted to work in such a place? Most obvious answer: Maybe she didn’t. Maybe she applied , to get turned down, and sue. The newest line of attack on clinics. Along with the screaming mob scenes in the parking lot, the idiotic requirement for admitting privileges, the surprise inspections, now we add the threat of being bled dry by baseless law suit set ups. She may have had legal advice at every step of the process, in tactics and email drafting. And, the dumb old clinic, didn’t have a lawyer sitting in HR, drafting emails.
    Ok, they should have just answered her question with “No”. And, let her answer “Oh. Well, I guess I can’t work for you then.” Win or lose, the clinics will learn from this.

  • Nina

    AAPLOG is not a religious organisation. You have your facts wrong, and thus your entire argument is flawed.

  • J

    That is so unbelievable . $400k??? Give me a break!

  • Melissa Cohagen

    The clinic’s function is to provide birth control. Why should they hire her if she is NOT going to prescribe birth control, unless there is a “pathology”? Who is she to push her beliefs on patients in a clinic that says it provides those services? Frances, I don’t care what your beliefs are, but if you agree with her, you are blind. If she wins this suit, I personally would search out where she works and ask her to prescribe my birth control. When she says no, I will file a suit against her and any employer until people will no longer wish to employ her. In fact, I encourage other women to follow suit.

  • Melissa Cohagen

    Why does the employer need to ‘compromise’. They should hire someone who does ALL of the required tasks. PS: Florida is an at will work state. Why is everyone else able to be fired at will even if they meet expectations – but she demands to be hired when she doesn’t meet expectations..

  • SheriLynn

    She clearly stated she would not prescribe birth control pills. I’m a nurse & have worked in a family planning clinic. You prescribe birth control pills ALL DAY LONG. She would NOT be an asset to the company by any means. She would be pulling other nurses from their duties to write the prescriptions which isn’t fair to the other nurses or the patients. It’s also not just prescribing the pills.. it’s counseling & teaching about the pills as well & if she won’t prescribe them, I’m sure she’d take issue with that part of her job as well.

  • Rufus

    You write, “According to the email chain provided by ADF, Lindsey seemed very
    interested in Hellwege’s resume. Numerous emails go back and forth
    between the two, with Lindsey asking various questions about Hellwege’s
    qualifications and other administrative concerns.”


    According to the pdf you link to, the HR director sent exactly ONE response to her initial query, before then asking her about her affiliation. And as someone who does a decent amount of resume & application letter reading, I’d say that this one note didn’t sound like someone who was “very interested,” but more like someone who thought the application wasn’t entirely without merit (and most job ads get a lot of those), but needed some clarification. Note that Lindsey isn’t even the one doing the hiring — he’s trying to do further weeding before “pass[ing] on [the resume] to the appropriate department for evaluation.” It appears that Hellwege didn’t even send a formal cover letter, but simply that short e-mail along with her resume — so it’s to be expected that there’d be some questions any recipient would ask.

    I’m not denying that Lindsey’s statement, “Due to the fact that…you are a member of AAPLOG” her application could not be considered is deplorable, and pretty damn stupid, besides. If prescribing all forms of birth control is a requirement for the job, then that’s the barrier — not an organizational membership. He was doing much better when he simply asked her if her membership would be grounds for HER to decline an interview. Best not to waste everyone’s time, hers included — and you can never assume a job applicant actually knows anything about the organization to whom they’re applying. But if, as an employer, you don’t want to move someone’s application forward, for any legitimate reason, simply politely tell them that this is the case. And make absolutely sure, internally, that your reason is legitimate.

  • Not discrimination

    Aaplog is not a religious group.

  • Derpus

    Whatever the merits of the case, I’d like to congratulate “Mommyish” for today’s “Most Slanted Headline Wording Of The Day” award.

  • Jaclyn Desiree Arceneaux

    She was “discriminated against” in a way which is legally and ethically legitimate. I wish we lived in a world where nice, naive people like you didn’t endanger all of us.

  • gigi

    I think the lawsuit is indeed a tactic by this woman, and I completely disagree that she was discriminated against. She told them what she wouldn’t do, they told her that there were no positions in which she wouldn’t have to do it. Splitting hairs is ridiculous.

  • CMKS

    Ms. Locke seems to thing that Mr. Lindsey had some obligation to get back to Ms. Hellwege. I’ve been on both sides of the hiring/applying game. I’ve thought I was a shoe-in for a job, then never heard back, and gotten a brush-off when I called. It happens. I’ve also hired many times, and although it may not seem so to the job-seeker, hiring is difficult. In Mr. Lindsey’s place, had I known Ms. Hellwege’s position on birth control, her resume would have been in the first group to be rejected. There are just too many better candidates available to waste your time on ones that will raise objections to certain aspects of the job.