The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) filed a lawsuit on Dec. 28, 2015, on behalf of Rebecca Chamorro against Dignity Health, a Catholic hospital group, for refusing to allow a doctor to perform a tubal ligation on Chamorro.
Chamorro, who is eight months pregnant, is scheduled to give birth in January at the Mercy Medical Center in Redding, California, notes BuzzFeed News.
Dr. Samuel Van Kirk, who is Chamorro's physician, says that about 50 of his female patients have been denied tubal ligations at Mercy over the past eight years. The nearest hospital that would allow Chamorro to get her tubes tied is about 70 miles away.
“This case is an example of gross overreach and the harm done to women and their families when religion is invoked to deny medical services,” Ruth Dawson, a lawyer for the ACLU, told the news site. “But this isn’t just happening in Redding, and this isn’t just happening in California.”
A Mercy spokesperson refused to comment on the lawsuit, but the hospital said in a statement that it doesn't allow tubal ligation under its Ethical and Religious Directives for Catholic Health Care Services (ERDs).
The ERDs, created by the U.S. Council of Catholic Bishops, ban the voluntary sterilization of men and women, as well as some kinds of birth control, certain types of genetic testing and abortion, even when the mother's life is in danger.
According to the Catholic Health Association, one in six patients in the U.S. are treated at a Catholic hospital, which currently number at 645 across all 50 states. There are 19.5 million ER visits yearly, and 102 million outpatient visits in Catholic hospitals.
In addition to its lawsuit on behalf of Chamorro, the ACLU has filed an emergency motion asking a judge to block Mercy from interfering in her delivery. The court date for the hearing is January 5.