Chicago, Ill., Sep 1, 2016 / 06:04 am (CNA/EWTN News).- A woman with a dislodged intrauterine device claims she was turned down for removal of the device at a Catholic hospital because her doctor said the procedure went against Catholic rules on contraception.
However, relevant directives from the U.S. bishops do not prevent the removal of contraceptive devices. Melanie Jones, 28, slipped and fell in her bathroom, dislodging her copper IUD to the point that it needed removal. She visited her doctor at Mercy Medical Group at Dearborn Station, an off-site location of Chicago's Mercy Hospital and Medical Center.
She claims her doctor said she could not remove the IUD due to the hospital’s policy of following the U.S. Catholic bishop’s ethical and religious directives for health care. Jones said the doctor also told her that every other hospital in her network followed the same restrictions.
Distraught, Jones filed a complaint with the American Civil Liberties Union of Illinois and contacted her insurance, after which she was able to find a hospital that removed her IUD five days later.
If the doctor at Mercy did refuse to remove the IUD on grounds of Catholic teaching, the doctor acted in error and did not follow the Catholic bishop’s directives or Mercy Hospital policy, the hospital said in a statement to Rewire. “Generally, our protocol in caring for a woman with a dislodged or troublesome IUD is to offer to remove it,” the statement said. Eric Rhodes, senior vice president of administrative and professional services for the hospital, said Mercy was reviewing its education process on Catholic directives for physicians and residents. “That act [of removing an IUD] in itself does not violate the directives,” Marty Folan, Mercy’s director of mission integration, told Rewire.
The Ethical and Religious Directives for Catholic Health Care Services published by the U.S. bishops' conference reaffirm ethical standards for health care and provide authoritative guidance on moral issues facing Catholic health care. Regarding contraception, the directives state that “Catholic health institutions may not promote or condone contraceptive practices,” but they do not prohibit the removal of long-acting contraceptive devices.
The ACLU has long opposed Catholic hospitals operating according to Catholic teaching. The ACLU and the group the MergerWatch Project co-authored a 2013 report that claimed the growth of Catholic hospitals was a “miscarriage of medicine.” In 2015, the ACLU sued Trinity Health Corporations, one of the largest Catholic health care operations in America and of which Mercy hospital is a member, for their refusal to perform abortions and tubal ligations. The lawsuit was dismissed.
More recently, a 2016 ACLU report found that one out of every six beds in the country's acute care hospitals is in a hospital with Catholic affiliations and that Catholic hospitals make up 15 percent of the country's hospitals. The report claims that because these hospitals follow Church teaching in regards to reproductive care, they put women at risk.
After news of the recent report broke in May, Marie Hilliard, the director of public policy for the National Catholic Bioethics Center, told the Guardian that if the directives are properly followed, a woman’s life should not be at risk. “If the directives are properly applied, there should be no compromise of the wellbeing of human beings,” Hilliard said. CNA contacted Mercy Hospital for comment on this story, but did not receive a response by deadline.