ACLU Asks Obama Admin to Force Catholic Hospitals to Do Abortions

National   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Dec 23, 2010   |   2:36PM   |   Washington, DC

The ACLU has again asked the Obama administration to force Catholic and other religiously-affiliated hospitals to do abortions in cases where the mother’s life is supposedly in danger.

The new letter to the federal government is the second the pro-abortion legal group has sent and this one concerns the debate over the controversial abortion a Phoenix-based Catholic hospital did. The abortion earned the medical center condemnation from Bishop Thomas Olmsted, who decided this week to revoke the Catholic status of the hospital.

“This confrontation never should have happened in the first place, because no hospital– religious or otherwise– should be prohibited from saving women’s lives and from following federal law,” the ACLU letter said.

The Wednesday letter went to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services and it applauded the abortion St. Joseph’s Hospital did saying it is “what is right by standing up for women’s health and complying with federal law.”

“The Bishop’s drastic and heavy-handed actions send a chilling message to Catholic hospitals throughout the country, as well as their employees: If hospitals comply with federal law and provide emergency abortion care there will be consequences,” the letter states. “The dioceses cannot be permitted to dictate who lives and who dies in Catholic-owned hospitals.”

Ellen Griffith, a Medicare spokeswoman, told the Washington Post that the original letter the ACLU sent in July was still pending and that officials in the office, run by rationing advocate Donald Berwick, have not reviewed the new letter.

The 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.

After the July letter, Dr. John Haas, president of the National Catholic Bioethics Center, told the Catholic News Agency, 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.