Trinity Health Corporations, one of the largest Catholic health care operations in America, is seeking the dismissal of a lawsuit brought by the American Civil Liberties Union over its refusal to provide women with abortion services at their medical facilities. "This case has no merit. A federal court already dismissed a similar ACLU claim, and we will seek dismissal of this suit for the same reason," stated Eve Pidgeon, the manager of public relations at Trinity Health Corporations. Trinity Health Corporations is a multi-facility operation headquartered in Livonia, a Detroit suburb, with more than 80 other hospital locations across America. The health group adheres to the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops’ ethical and religious protocol for medical practice, which includes the refusal to perform abortions and tubal ligations within their hospitals. These directives for Catholic health services from the USCCB have been consistently followed by Trinity Health Corporation hospitals, which also cover various other medical issues from palliative care to birth control. The ACLU and the ACLU of Michigan are suing Trinity Health over allegations that pregnant women are being denied "emergency health care" - specifically abortions - when they seek care at their hospitals. The ACLU is also underscoring Trinity Health’s refusal to perform operations such as tubal ligations on pregnant women because of the medical directives they follow. The ACLU maintains that Trinity Health Corporations is in violation of the Emergency Medical Treatment and Active Labor Act (EMTALA). According to the ACLU, failing to offer pregnant women abortion services because of religious directives breaches this federal law. However, when a similar case was brought against the USCCB in 2013 Archbishop Joseph Kurtz of Louisville, president of the bishops’ conference, called the lawsuit “baseless,” saying their medical directives “urge respectful and compassionate care for both mothers and their children, both during and after pregnancy.” That lawsuit was dismissed in June by a federal district court. The ACLU filed an appeal the following month. Trinity Health also refuted the current allegations from the ACLU, upholding their ethical and medical procedures as coherent with best practices for women's health. "The Ethical and Religious Directives are entirely consistent with high-quality health care, and our clinicians continue to provide superb care throughout the communities we serve," Pidgeon asserted, defending the USCCB regulations the hospital group follows. "We are proud that more than 25,000 licensed physicians work directly with our health system and share our commitment to people-centered care," Pidgeon continued, maintaining Trinity Health's standard of practice. The lawsuit against Trinity Health Corporations was announced Oct. 1 at a U.S. district court in Detroit, and Trinity Health Corporations is seeking dismissal of the case. 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.” The report says the ACLU’s work in this area is supported by the “generous support” of two anonymous donors as well as the Arcus Foundation, the Herb Block Foundation, the Robert Sterling Clark Foundation, the George Gund Foundation, the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, the Jessie Smith Noyes Foundation, the David and Lucile Packard Foundation, and the Scherman Foundation.
Kevin J. Jones contributed to this report.
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