Catholic hospital system sued for failing to provide care to pregnant women

The American Civil Liberties Union, along with the American Civil Liberties Union of Michigan have filed a federal lawsuit against Trinity Health Cooperation, a Catholic health system, for its "repeated and systematic failure to provide women suffering pregnancy complications with appropriate emergency abortions as required by federal law," according to an ACLU press release.

"We’re taking a stand today to fight for pregnant women who are denied potentially life-saving care because doctors are forced to follow religious directives rather than best medical practices,” said ACLU of Michigan Staff Attorney Brooke A. Tucker in the press release. “Catholic bishops are not licensed medical professionals and have no place dictating how doctors practice medicine, especially when it violates federal law.”  

Trinity Health Corporation owns and operates more than 80 hospitals around the country. According to the press release, the corporation receives public funding and requires all of its facilities abide by the Ethical and Religious Directives under the USCCB. "These directives prohibit a doctor working at a Catholic hospital from terminating a woman’s pregnancy even when the failure to do so puts her health or life at risk," the press release stated.

Also from the press release: 

A hospital’s failure to provide pregnant women appropriate emergency care, including an abortion when the circumstances warrant, violates a federal law called the Emergency Medical Treatment and Active Labor Act, known as EMTALA.  A public health educator in Michigan discovered that at one of Trinity’s hospitals alone, at least five women who were suffering from miscarriages and needed urgent care were denied that care because of the Catholic directives.

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“To put it simply and humanely, patient welfare must be the number one concern of health care professionals,” said ACLU Staff Attorney Alexa Kolbi-Molinas. “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.”

Catholic hospitals receive public money and ten of the 25 largest hospital systems in the U.S. are Catholic-sponsored.  Nearly one of nine hospital beds in the country is in a Catholic facility. The directives bar doctors at those hospitals from offering — or even discussing — certain reproductive health care services, even when those services are necessary to protect a woman’ s health. As U.S. hospitals become increasingly affiliated with religious organizations, the health of American women is threatened by the refusal to provide medically appropriate and often times lifesaving services.

 

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