Flint, Mich., Dec 10, 2016 / 04:09 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Hospitals run according to Catholic ethics shouldn’t be coerced into performing sterilizations, a legal group has said after the American Civil Liberties Union filed a federal complaint against a Michigan medical center.
“No one should be forced to perform or participate in a procedure when doing so would violate their conscience,” said Ken Connelly, legal counsel with Alliance Defending Freedom. “This is especially true of medical workers and health care systems who are in the profession largely because of — and as an extension of — their faith.” “Furthermore, no law requires religious hospitals and medical personnel to sterilize women, and, in fact, federal law specifically prohibits the government from engaging in any such coercion,” Connelly continued.
The legal group said federal officials should disregard a complaint filed against Genesys Regional Medical Center in the Flint suburb of Grand Blanc, Mich. The complaint dates back to the hospital’s decision in September 2015 when a woman named Jessica Mann gave birth to her third child at the medical center. She had sought an exemption to its policy for a post-partum tubal ligation. Her doctors recommended the procedure due to a potentially life-threatening brain tumor, the Michigan news site MLive.com reports.
The medical center declined the request. Its parent company is Ascension Health, which requires its hospitals to follow the ethical and religious directives of the U.S. bishops’ conference, which recognize intentional direct sterilization as unethical and contrary to Catholic teaching. Mann had the procedure at a different hospital.
The ACLU filed a complaint with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Office for Civil Rights charging that the decision to not perform a sterilization violated anti-discrimination laws and “caused her significant harm.” In a statement Mann said the hospital’s policy distracted her from preparations for the arrival of the baby and meant she had to search for a new doctor. “I don’t want other women to be turned away from hospitals that let their religious views trump their patients’ serious medical needs,” she said.
A Nov. 21 letter from Alliance Defending Freedom attorneys said Catholic health care institutions are motivated a “ministry of healing and compassion” rooted in Church teaching which prefers aiding those at the margins. Federal action that would challenge the roots of Catholic health care could make the benefits of Catholic health care itself disappear, the legal group warned. Further, any federal action would be barred under the federal Church Amendment and the reiteration of conscience protections in the Affordable Care Act of 2010.
Brigitte Amiri, a senior staff attorney with the ACLU Reproductive Freedom Project, defended the complaint. “Everyone is entitled to their religious beliefs, but those beliefs do not give anyone the right to discriminate against another person,” she said. Alliance Defending Freedom attorneys countered in their letter: “It is not an act of discrimination to decline, for conscience reasons, to perform a medical procedure — indeed, if that were the case conscience protections would not exist.”