Last week, Mercy Medical Center, a Catholic Hospital in Redding, California, reversed its decision to refuse to a pregnant woman post-birth sterilization under the threat of a potential sex-discrimination lawsuit from the ACLU.
The hospital, owned by San Francisco-based Dignity Health, California's largest private health care company, had previously refused to allow patient Rachel Miller to receive tubal litigation after her caesarean section scheduled for next month.
To justify the refusal, Mercy Medical Center cited Catholic hospitals’ “Ethical and Religious Directives” which prohibit sterilization for the purpose of contraception and refers to it as “intrinsically evil.”
After being denied, Miller sought legal support from the American Civil Liberties Union. Her attorneys at the ACLU sent a letter to Dignity Health threatening to file a lawsuit if the hospital refused to allow Miller’s doctor to perform tubal litigation, on the grounds that the hospital was discriminating on the basis of sex by denying Miller the pregnancy-based care.
Though the hospital has now agreed to grant an exception for Miller, a serious conflict remains between reproductive health care and religiously-affiliated hospitals in America.
“As long as Catholic hospitals are allowed to apply the ethical and religious directives, many women will be denied care because Catholic bishops are telling medical professionals how to operate,” said Elizabeth Gill, senior attorney at the ACLU of Northern California.
Miller, a 32-year-old lawyer who lives in Redding with her husband and child, would have needed to travel over 160 miles to get to a hospital that would accept her insurance and perform both procedures.
In a statement released by her lawyers, Miller said: “This is a decision that I made with my family and my doctor and no one else should be involved in that process. I hope my case will shine a light on this issue so that others aren’t turned away.”
According to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, about 600,000 women in the United States undergo a tubal litigation every year, SFGate reported.