Many have wondered how First Image is responding to the recent order from the Governor’s office mandating that all workers in healthcare settings be vaccinated against COVID-19. Like many of you, we have been disheartened by the recent vaccine mandates, and the difficult situation it’s putting many people in. We believe that vaccination should be a personal choice, up to the conscience of individuals.
Throughout the pandemic, we have constantly adjusted to changing protocols, updating our COVID policy too many times to count. To call this season challenging doesn’t do it justice. And yet, our whole team has been incredibly resilient, and we are so thankful that we have been able to remain open throughout the entire pandemic, providing crucial services to women facing unsupported pregnancies.
Women and men come into our centers looking for people they can trust. The work of our staff and volunteers to respect and protect them in the midst of deeply anxious times has spoken volumes; most importantly, it demonstrates the love of Jesus.
When the vaccine mandate came down, it was immediately clear that the work we do in our centers would fall under the language of the requirement. Some may not be aware that our centers are actual medical clinics, with a number of Registered Nurses on staff, operating under the license of a medical director, who is an OBGYN. There is no question that our centers are considered healthcare settings by this standard, along with most of the other pregnancy centers throughout the state of Oregon.
In consultation with our Medical Director, national agencies like NIFLA (an organization that provides legal support for pregnancy centers), and others, we have worked to respond in a way that would respect the legally binding nature of the mandate and protect the conscience of our staff and volunteers.
As a ministry committed to the full personhood of pre-born children, the bioethical questions about the origin of the vaccines are incredibly important. There have been some excellent resources put together for those that are working through those ethical questions. As one example, Randy Alcorn has done a fantastic job summarizing the issues related to fetal cells and vaccination: https://www.epm.org/blog/2021/Jan/13/covid-vaccines-fetal-cells.
The order allows for either medical or religions exceptions to the mandate. The definition for a religious exception is quite broad and includes, “…theistic beliefs as well as non-theistic ‘moral or ethical beliefs as to what is right and wrong which are sincerely held with the strength of traditional religious views.’” In our view, this broad definition leaves it to the conscience of the individual as to whether taking the COVID vaccine violates their beliefs. Additionally, according to the provisions of title VII, it is not our job to dictate whether the particular religious belief is legitimate or sincerely held.
In the case of this mandate, and our compliance with it, the responsibility lies with the individual to educate themselves and determine whether or not they will take the vaccine. It is our responsibility to make sure that we can remain focused on our work to help women and men find a way forward to give abundant life to their children, and to walk with those carrying the grief of past abortion experience.
We would ask for your continued prayer in this season. Please pray for the unity of God’s people in the fellowship of Jesus Christ’s death and resurrection. Pray for the people we serve in the midst of continued anxiety and uncertainty. Pray for wisdom as we seek to faithfully navigate choppy waters on foggy days. We are so thankful to have you with us in this work.
If you have any questions, or need clarification, please reach out. Our full COVID policy and associated forms are available upon request.