Court Dismisses ACLU Lawsuit Attempting to Force Catholic Hospital to Do Abortions

National   Steven Ertelt, Emily Derois   Apr 11, 2016   |   1:40PM    Washington, DC

In December, LifeNews reported the American Civil Liberties Union sued a Catholic health system in an attempt to force its staff to perform abortions, despite their religious and personal pro-life convictions. On March 23, the court examined the evidence to determine whether to dismiss the ACLU’s lawsuit against the Trinity Health Corporation.

Today, the federal court threw out the ACLU lawsuit that pro-life attorneys for the Hospital said sought to force it and its staff to commit abortions regardless of their religious and pro-life objections.

Alliance Defending Freedom attorneys represent the Catholic Medical Association, the Christian Medical and Dental Associations, and the American Association of Pro-Life Obstetricians and Gynecologists, which the court allowed on March 10 to intervene in the case in defense of Trinity Health Corporation. Trinity Health operates 86 facilities in 21 states.

ADF attorneys told LifeNews they were delighted by the dcision.

No American should be forced to commit an abortion—least of all faith-based medical workers who went into the profession to follow their faith and save lives, not take them,” said ADF Senior Counsel Kevin Theriot. “No law requires religious hospitals and medical personnel to commit abortions against their faith and conscience, and, in fact, federal law directly prohibits the government from engaging in any such coercion. As we argued in our brief to the court, the ACLU had no standing to bring this suit and demand this kind of government coercion.”

“Those who doubt that anyone would ever try to force someone to commit an abortion need only look at this case,” explained ADF Senior Counsel Matt Bowman. “This is precisely what the ACLU sought to do. The court came to the right conclusion in putting an end to their quest. The ruling relies on important case law that our pro-life medical group clients cited showing that the ACLU’s case was based on pure speculation.”

“Forcing health care workers to act contrary to the very faith and ethical convictions that led them into the medical profession—to serve, help, and bring healing to people—is counterproductive, unnecessary, and against the law,” Bowman continued.

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The U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan, Southern Division, in its dismissal order in American Civil Liberties Union v. Trinity Health Corporation called the ACLU’s claims of harm from the hospital system’s pro-life position “dubious,” explaining that they haven’t satisfied the legal requirements to demonstrate such harm and therefore bring a lawsuit.

The court additionally found that, for those reasons and others, the lawsuit is not “ripe for review,” meaning that nothing has happened to warrant court action: “Obviously, pregnancy alone is not a ‘particular condition’ that requires the termination of said pregnancy. To find the claim to be ripe for review on the facts pleaded before this Court would be to grant a cause of action to every pregnant woman in the state of Michigan upon the date of conception. Accordingly, the alleged harm has not risen beyond a speculative nature and is not ripe for review.”

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. In these cases, the unborn babies often die; but the ACLU wants to force the Catholic employer to abort babies in these situations.

Because of the prevalence of abortion in the United States, it is often assumed that OBGYNs will perform abortions. Yet this assumption fails to consider the values and beliefs that many doctors hold, which is that unborn life is a gift that must be valued. This case is a clear reminder of the need to protect the rights of medical personnel.

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