Catholic Hospitals Get Support Against ACLU Effort to Make Them to Do Abortions

National   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Aug 24, 2010   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

Catholic Hospitals Get Support Against ACLU Effort to Make Them to Do Abortions

by Steven Ertelt Editor
August 24
, 2010

Washington, DC ( — Catholic hospitals across the nation are getting support from a pro-life legal group that says it will provide legal assistance at no cost to those medical centers feeling pressure from a new ACLU-sponsored campaign to make them do abortions against their will.

The ACLU is making a claim that Catholic hospitals nationwide refusing are abortions for women in very rare instances in which it may somehow be necessary to save their life.

The ACLU has sent a letter to the Centers for Medicaid and Medicare Services demanding an investigation into what it calls "potential violations" of law regarding the supposedly life-saving abortions.

After sending the letter, the ACLU called on its members to mount a letter campaign to demand abortion services at Catholic hospitals.

In a letter sent late last week, The Becket Fund for Religious Liberty threatened to sue the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) if it tried to force religiously-affiliated hospitals to do abortions against the conscientious objections of their doctors and nurses.

"We will represent, pro bono, any religious hospital or its personnel that HHS threatens because of their conscientious objection to abortion," said Kevin Hasson, president of the Beckett Fund. "And we will, if necessary, sue to block any such proposed policy."

The letter pointed out that conscience has been protected in the medical profession in the United States since unlimited abortions were allowed nationwide in Roe.

It also argued that the ACLU misinterprets the Emergency Medical Treatment and Active Labor Act, a law initially designed in part to protect the conscience rights of healthcare workers, and in doing so, overturns 25 years of caselaw.

“The ACLU has no business radically re-defining the meaning of ‘emergency health care,’” the group wrote.

"Just as it has no business demanding that religious doctors and nurses violate their faith by performing a procedure they believe is tantamount to murder. Forcing religious hospitals to perform abortions not only undermines this nation’s integral commitment to conscience rights, it violates the numerous federal laws that recognize and protect those rights," the letter added.

The Beckett Fund also explained that forcing Catholic or any religiously-affiliated hospital to perform abortions will only result in nationwide closures, thereby reducing access to healthcare for everyone.

Legally forcing doctors and nurses to perform abortions in violation of their consciences would constitute a large step backwards for religious freedom and would turn this nation’s foundational commitment to conscience rights on its head, the pro-life legal group added.

The ACLU letter asks federal officials to interpret the Emergency Medical Treatment and Active Labor Act (EMTALA) and the Conditions of Participation of Medicare and Medicaid — which require hospitals to provide appropriate medical care to all patients.
The ACLU says the portion of the Act concerning “emergency reproductive health care” includes abortions.

The Catholic Church has a longstanding pro-life policy against abortions but says it is morally permissible to treat women for life-threatening conditions and that that treatment could result in an "abortion" such as in the case of an ectopic pregnancy.

The letter asks the Centers for Medicaid and Medicare Services (CMS), now led by rationing advocate Donald Berwick, to investigate situations in which the lives and health of women were supposedly jeopardized by the Catholic hospitals.

The ACLU of Arizona is leading the charge in the case because of a recent situation at St. Joseph’s Hospital and Medical Center, where a pregnant woman with life-threatening pulmonary hypertension was taken there and officials debated whether to allow her to have an abortion.

The ethics committee of St. Joseph’s Hospital and Medical Center ultimately approved the abortion but the sister who was the head of the committee was demoted.

The CMS has received the letter and is currently reviewing it to decide whether it will take any action, CMS spokeswoman Ellen Griffith confirmed to CNA.

Dr. John Haas, president of the National Catholic Bioethics Center, told CNA that the ACLU letter misrepresents Catholic teaching and practice.

“In fact, some of the conditions cited in the letter would have allowed an ‘indirect abortion’ in a Catholic hospital which permits a physician to address a current and serious pathology which might indirectly result in the foreseen but unintended death of the child,” Dr. Haas told CNA.

And Tom Brejcha, president and chief counsel for the Thomas More Society, told CNA that making Catholic hospitals do abortions against their will would violate conscience rights.

“Catholics should view the ACLU’s letter as heralding nothing less than a new onslaught of attacks against the Church’s core teachings that human life is sacred from conception to natural death, that procured or directly intended destruction of a viable fetus by abortion is never morally permissible, and that those who participate or materially aid in such acts per se put themselves out of communion with the Church,” Brejcha explained.

“ACLU’s advocacy that abortions are sometimes necessary to ‘save a life’ and its contention that reproductive health care may require the killing of unborn human beings should provoke an enlightened, invigorated and sustained response from Catholics and others who believe that every human life is endowed with an inviolable right to life,” he said.

Related web sites:
Becket Fund –


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