ACLU Files Lawsuit to Force Catholic Hospital Network to Do Abortions

National   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Dec 18, 2015   |   1:06PM   |   Washington, DC

The American Civil Liberties Union has sued Trinity Health Corporation for refusing to perform abortions on women whose unborn babies were supposedly near death. The ACLU lawsuit is asking the court to force Trinity Health and its staff to commit abortions regardless of their religious and pro-life objections.

In a federal lawsuit against Trinity, which is one of the largest Catholic health systems in the country, the ACLU explained that their doctors refused to perform abortions on five women who suffered preterm, premature rupture of membranes. This complication arises when the amniotic sac breaks and leaves no fluid around the unborn child.

Sarah Prager, an associate professor of obstetrics and gynecology at the University of Washington, said the condition almost always results in fetal death. She said, “This is a situation where there is virtually no chance that the fetus will survive. The miscarriage has started. It just hasn’t completed.”

Additionally, Prager said that if care is denied women are at risk for infection and termination of pregnancy is considered “the standard of care.”

Still, the ACLU wants to force the Trinity Catholic hospital network to abort the babies anyway.

Responding to the lawsuit, Alliance Defending Freedom attorneys representing several pro-life, pro-women’s organizations asked a federal court Wednesday to allow the groups to intervene in defense of the Catholic health system. ADF attorneys represent Catholic Medical Association, Christian Medical and Dental Association, American Association of Pro-Life Obstetricians and Gynecologists, and Concerned Women for America, all of which could be affected by the lawsuit’s outcome. Trinity Health operates 86 facilities in 21 states.

“No American should be forced to commit an abortion,” said ADF Senior Counsel Kevin Theriot. “Not only is there no law that requires faith-based hospitals and medical personnel to commit such acts against their faith and conscience, federal law directly prohibits the government from engaging in any such coercion. Similarly, the government cannot tie any funding to a requirement that hospitals and health care workers give up their constitutionally protected freedoms.”

“Forcing Catholic hospitals to perform abortions is not only against the law, it simply makes no sense,” explained ADF Senior Legal Counsel Matt Bowman. “Patients should always have the freedom to choose a health care facility that respects life and to choose doctors who do not commit abortions. Other options exist for patients who prefer a different type of facility. Forcing health care workers to act contrary to the very faith convictions that led them into the medical profession—to serve, help, and bring healing to people—is counterproductive, unnecessary, and illegal.”

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“Catholic Medical, Christian Medical, and AAPLOG…seek to defend their members’ right not to be forced by the federal government to provide, assist in, or refer for abortions; against their sincere religious, conscientious, and ethical objections to this practice. CWA seeks to defend its members’ right to choose a healthcare provider that does not perform abortions,” the motion filed in American Civil Liberties Union v. Trinity Health Corporation with the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan, Southern Division, explains.

The groups “bring a point of view to the litigation not presented by either the plaintiffs or the defendants…,” the motion continues. “As associations that are dedicated to representing the interests of pro-life healthcare professionals and those who seek care from them, Applicants are uniquely suited to give primacy to arguments that emphasize the concerns regarding conscience.”

USA Today reports that Trinity believes the case has no merit. In a statement, they said, “A federal court already dismissed a similar ACLU claim, and we will seek dismissal of this suit for the same reason. The Ethical and Religious Directives are entirely consistent with high-quality health care, and our clinicians continue to provide superb care throughout the communities we serve. We are proud that more than 25,000 licensed physicians work directly with our health system and share our commitment to people-centered care.”

Trinity Spokeswoman Eve Pidgeon added that Catholic directives “are entirely consistent with high-quality health care, and our clinicians continue to provide superb care throughout the communities we serve. We are proud that more than 25,000 licensed physicians work directly with our health system and share our commitment to people-centered care.”

However, the ACLU argued that Trinity violated the Emergency Medical Treatment and Active Labor Act (EMTALA) by failing to stabilize the women’s medical conditions. ACLU attorney Alexa Kolbi-Molinas said, “Patient welfare must be the No. 1 concern of health care professionals. Every pregnant woman who enters an emergency room should be guaranteed that she will get the care she needs, and should not have to worry that she won’t get appropriate care because of the hospital’s religious affiliation.”

As LifeNews previously reported, the ACLU has been big advocates for abortion and forcing Catholic hospitals to perform them even though it’s against their religious beliefs. In fact, they ACLU of Michigan recently lost a lawsuit where they were trying to force Catholic and other religiously affiliated hospitals to do abortions in cases where the mother’s life is supposedly in danger. The judge involved in the case, Robert Holmes Bell, dismissed it and said that Michigan federal courts had no jurisdiction over the bishops conference policy directive and had no business interfering with their religious doctorial decisions.

Then, earlier this year, the ACLU sued the Obama administration for documents it says will show that the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) is restricting access to abortions for unaccompanied immigrant children. In February 2014, the USCCB objected to a new regulation proposed by the Obama administration that would require contractors to provide access to contraception and abortion for unaccompanied immigrant children who have been raped.

In an official letter, the USCCB as well as World Relief, the National Association of Evangelicals and Catholic Relief Services, explained that the new regulation violates religious liberty, specifically the federal Religious Freedom Restoration Act.

They wrote, “There is little question that a government requirement to provide or refer for items or procedures to which an organization has a religious and moral objection would impose a ‘substantial burden’ on its exercise of religion.” Additionally, the USCCB said they were opposed to transferring teenagers to other groups that would do abortions because they believe it still enables actions that violate their religious beliefs.