ACLU Loses Attempt to Force Catholic Hospital to Refer Patients for Abortions

State   |   Micaiah Bilger   |   Sep 12, 2016   |   5:53PM   |   Lansing, MI

A Catholic hospital in Michigan will not be forced to recommend abortions to patients after a federal court rejected a woman’s lawsuit on Thursday.

Tamesha Means, represented by the American Civil Liberties Union, filed a lawsuit against the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops in 2013 after she claimed a Catholic hospital failed to present abortion as an option when her water broke at 18 weeks of pregnancy, Reuters reports.

Means said she was in excruciating pain at Mercy Health Partners hospital in Muskegon, Michigan, and there was no chance that her unborn child would survive. In the lawsuit, she alleged that the hospital, which is under the direction of the USCCB, was negligent because she should have been presented with the option to have an abortion. The ACLU also claimed an abortion would have been safer for her than naturally miscarrying her child.

The ACLU alleged the conference’s health care directives “denied appropriate medical care” and information about treatments to Means.

The U.S. Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals disagreed. On Thursday, the federal judges upheld an earlier district court judge’s decision to dismiss the case. Judge Robert Holmes Bell threw out the case in 2015, saying Means’ claim would “impermissibly intrude upon ecclesiastical matters.” Bell also said the court does not have jurisdiction over the Catholic conference.

The circuit court order read: “Means alleges – and we do not doubt – that she suffered physical and mental pain, emotional injuries, a riskier delivery, shock and emotional trauma from making funeral arrangements for her dead child. … But these allegations are not sufficient to state an injury under Michigan negligence law. Pain alone is not ‘physical injury.’”

Abortion activists with the ACLU and other groups have been attacking Catholic and other religious health care providers lately and trying to force them to promote or provide abortions. The pro-abortion groups claim that because Catholic hospitals provide a large percentage of health care in America, women do not have easy access to abortion.

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In 2015, the ACLU sued a Catholic health system in California on similar grounds. In a federal lawsuit against Trinity Health Corporation, one of the largest Catholic health systems in the country, the ACLU alleged that Trinity doctors refused to perform abortions on five women who suffered preterm, premature rupture of membranes, which usually results in the natural death of the unborn child. A federal court dismissed that lawsuit in April.

In May, the ACLU published an advocacy report titled “Health Care Denied,” attacking Catholic hospitals that refuse to do abortions and other medical procedures that violate their faith. The publication highlighted how many hospitals in the U.S. are Catholic (one in six), and then accused them of jeopardizing women’s lives because they do not do abortions, sterilizations and other “reproductive health” procedures.

Grazie Pozo Christie, a Miami-area radiologist and a Catholic, told the Baptist Press that the ACLU’s claims are false.

“When a woman’s life is in danger, any treatment that a woman needs will be provided to her, even if it endangers the child,” Christie said. “So there is no point in a Catholic hospital at which a woman’s life becomes really in danger.”

The ACLU report is meant to cause alarm among the general public by accusing these prevalent, faith-based hospitals of denying women “reproductive health care” such as abortions.

The ACLU wrote: “In America, religious freedom is a fundamental right. But it does not grant hospitals the right to force their religious beliefs on patients or discriminate by closing the door to patients.”

By refusing to do abortions, however, Catholic hospitals are not discriminating against patients or denying them care. Quite the opposite, these hospitals recognize that there are two patients involved in a pregnancy and provide them both with health care.