Former nurse sues Winnebago County Health Department

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WINNEBAGO COUNTY, Ill. (WIFR) -- A former Rockford nurse files a lawsuit with the Winnebago County Health Department after she says she was fired because of her religious beliefs.

As a nurse, Sandra Mendoza says it's her job to protect life no matter how big or small and says it was heartbreaking when she was forced out of her job because of her pro-life stance.

Mendoza had been serving in the pediatrics clinic for 18 years before she says she was forced to resign last July.

According to the filed complaint, Public Health Administrator Sandra Martell merged pediatrics with women's health services and mandated that all nurses train to provide abortion referrals.

Mendoza says when she informed her boss that she would not be participating because that would interfere with her religious beliefs, she says Martell gave her the ultimatum to either quit or take a job as a food inspector.

Mendoza's attorney, Noel Sterett, says state law protects her and her beliefs.

"In Illinois, we may disagree on what abortion is and whether it's good or bad, but Illinois general assembly recognizes that we should all agree that pro-life nurses, doctors and pharmacists should have a right of conscience and should be able to act in accordance to their conscience in the provision of their medical care," said Sterett.

23 News also reached out to the health department, however they say their legal team has advised them not to speak on the lawsuit. No court date has yet been set.

Mendoza is seeking damages under the Illinois Health Care Right of Conscience Act.

There is a bill that would force doctors and nurses to promote and perform abortions despite their personal beliefs. That is currently awaiting the approval of Governor Bruce Rauner.

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