The Mercy Health Partners hospital in Muskegon, Michigan, allegedly forced five women to suffer dangerous miscarriages between August 2009 and December 2010, according to a new report.
Faith Groesbeck, a former Muskegon County health official, leaked her report to The Guardian on Feb. 18. The report claims that doctors did not offer the women options of inducing labor or abortion, or the choice of being transferred to another hospital.
Instead, the doctors reportedly forced the women to undergo prolonged miscarriages, which resulted in infection or emotional suffering or surgery that was not necessary.
None of the five women had been pregnant more than 20 weeks, which is under the 24-week benchmark that is generally recognized as when an infant can survive outside of its mother.
The hospital was following the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops' directives, which state, “Abortion is never permitted, Catholic healthcare institutions are not to provide abortion services, even based upon the principle of material cooperation," the report notes
There is an exception for abortion in cases of the woman's health in the directives. Mercy Health Partners executive Joseph O’Meara told county health officials that “as long as there is a heartbeat, induction of labor is not an option in a Catholic institution unless the mother’s life is in jeopardy,” according to the report. However, O’Meara reportedly admitted that the hospital doesn't have clear rules to determine when a mother's life is in danger.
Mercy Health Partners, and the company that owns it, Trinity Health, would not comment on the report to The Guardian.
Two of the five women reportedly delivered stillborns, while the other three women delivered infants that only survived between one and 90 minutes.
One of the five women, Tamesha Means, filed a lawsuit against the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops for its health care policies, but the lawsuit was thrown out by Federal Judge Robert Holmes Bell in July 2015 because Holmes Bell said he did not have jurisdiction over the organization and could not interfere with their religious beliefs.
Means told TwinCities.com in 2013 that she was 18 weeks pregnant when her water broke in 2010. A friend drove her to Mercy Health Partners, but staff gave her medication and sent her home. Means returned the next day in "severe pain" and doctors suspected she may have a "significant infection," according to the lawsuit. She was once again sent home, but she returned to the hospital later that night and suffered a miscarriage.
“The pain was unbearable,” Means recalled. “I told them, ‘I need you guys to help me.’ They told me there was nothing they could do.”
Means added that the doctors did not give her options such as induced labor or pregnancy termination, nor did they tell her that the fetus was not likely to survive.