A doctor is alleging that MedStar Washington Hospital Center has violated her civil rights by barring her from speaking out about abortion, according to a complaint the physician filed with HHS' Office for Civil Rights on Monday.
In the complaint (PDF), Dr. Diane Horvath-Cosper alleges that following a November 2015 shooting that killed three at a Planned Parenthood clinic in Colorado Springs, Colo., MedStar denied all her requests to be interviewed by media.
Horvath-Cosper is a family planning fellow at MedStar, where she focuses her practice on abortion and contraception. The complaint states she advocates for access to abortion and regularly spoke to the media before 2016.
Horvath-Cosper alleges in the complaint that the hospital also threatened employment repercussions if she continued her advocacy, isolated her within her department and “forced her to choose between remaining employed and sacrificing the public advocacy that is central to her moral convictions about abortion and the primary reason she became a (fellow) at MedStar.”
MedStar plans to fully cooperate with the Office for Civil Rights, said Donna Arbogast, a hospital spokeswoman, in a statement.
“MedStar Washington Hospital Center is committed to providing family planning services for our community, and we do so in a respectful, private and safe environment,” Arbogast said in the statement.
In the complaint, filed on behalf of Horvath-Cosper by two attorneys, including one with the National Women's Law Center, the doctor says federal law prohibits hospitals receiving federal financial assistance from discriminating in the employment of a doctor or other healthcare worker because of his or her moral convictions on abortion.
She alleges that the hospital's chief medical officer, Dr. Gregory Argyros, told her in December 2015 to stop talking to the media about abortion. He allegedly told her he did “not want to put a Kmart blue light special on the fact that we provide abortions at MedStar.”
Yet Horvath-Cosper alleges MedStar didn't follow recommended security precautions for abortion providers.
She also alleges that ultimately, the hospital's OB-GYN department chair, Dr. Melissa Fries, warned her that if she continued to discuss abortion publicly she risked being reviewed for misconduct, which could lead to dismissal.
Dr. Nancy Stanwood, chair of the Physicians for Reproductive Health board, said in a statement Tuesday that “too many” abortion providers feel constrained by their employers when it comes to speaking out about the importance of safe and legal abortions. Stanwood noted that Horvath-Cosper is also a fellow of the group's Leadership Training Academy.
“In today's climate of harassment, intimidation, and incendiary rhetoric, physicians that want to speak out about abortion care need to be supported, not silenced,” Stanwood said in the statement. “To openly advocate as an abortion provider can carry risk, but forbidding physicians from advocating discredits the life-saving care we provide to our patients.”