A pro-life nurse in Terrace B.C. has been accused of unethical and unprofessional behavior and breach of confidentiality, and faces possible disciplinary action from her professional association, the Registered Nurses Association of British Columbia (RNABC).

Isobel Brophy will go before a three-member panel of her peers on may 7 to answer to these allegations. If the panel, a quasi-judicial body, rules against her, Mrs. Brophy could face a penalty ranging from a verbal reprimand, suspension, or the revoking of her license, she told The Interim.

All this began, or came to a head, during a nurses’ strike in Terrace in June 1989, she said. Mrs. Brophy was part of a group of 18 nurses who sent a letter to the administration of Mills Memorial Hospital, stating they didn’t want to prepare women for abortions during the strike.

“It’s morally offensive to us at any time, but especially offensive when you were denying the public other health care services because of the strike,” Mrs. Brophy commented. The hospital, however, “ignored the letter” and proceeded to book an abortion. Mrs. Brophy then wrote a personal letter stating if the abortion took place, there would be a picket of the hospital and the media would be called.

Abortion cancelled

As a result, the abortion was cancelled, but son afterward the RNABC launched an investigation into Mrs. Brophy’s professional conduct, “basically going on a witch hunt,” she said.

The abortion was rescheduled, and one of the citations against Mrs. Brophy is for putting a woman at risk for a late-term abortion.

There is no provision for nurses to opt out of involvement in abortions in B.C. Mrs. Brophy, who has nursed permanent part-time at Mills Memorial for about 16 years, said that as a “float” nurse, she would on occasion be assigned to obstetrics/gynecology and in that capacity, have in her care women in for abortions. They have an overnight stay at the hospital.

While nurses “don’t have the right to opt out,” she said, she strongly believes in the right to “be a pro-life presence, a voice in a pro-abortion atmosphere.”

Her case is significant “not just for my professional hide, but for all nurses whose ethical code doesn’t mesh with the status quo.”

Radical support

Mrs. Brophy would discuss with her patients the development of the unborn child and the abortion procedure, and “make an offer of radical support.” “I never changed anybody’s mind,” she related, “possibly because was too gentle… possibly because it was too late the night before the abortion.” Usually women admitted to the hospital have “gritted their teeth and headed in… it would take extreme courage for a woman to turn around at that time.”

But it’s obvious to her that “women go into (abortions) with really inadequate information, dismal counseling. There’s an atmosphere of silence around the women coming in for abortions, nobody wants to talk to them, the staff stays away… and they suffer grievously because of it.”

Rings hollow

The feminist perspective that abortions is a legitimate solution to a crisis pregnancy “rings hollow when you see women weeping afterwards,” she observed.

By keeping silent, Mrs. Brophy felt she was cooperating with abortions “like a good Nazi.” She reached a point where “I couldn’t stand myself, so I started talking… and it’s caused an uproar.” The hospital’s action during the strike was “the last straw,” she said. “How dare they force us to submit to their immoral code of ethics?”

The following investigation “astonished” her. “It really gave me an awareness of how vehement the pro-abortion forces are about their ‘mandate,’” she stated.

According to John Cox, executive officer of public relations for RNABC, the investigation was launched after the association received a complaint – from whom, he was not at liberty to say. The RNABC “does not take a stand on abortion… as far as we’re concerned, abortion is not the issue,” he said, adding, “The issues are patient confidentiality, a patient’s right to privacy and the doctor/patient relationships.”

The mandate of the RNABC is to ensure “public protection and safe and adequate nursing care… the discipline process is an important element to it,” Mr. Cox said.