Emergency Motion Hearing Today to Allow Doctor at Catholic Hospital to Provide Pregnancy-Related Care to Patient

January 5, 2016 11:30 am

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SAN FRANCISCO — A judge today will hear whether to grant an emergency motion to prevent a Catholic-affiliated hospital in California’s largest hospital network from using religious directives to deny a doctor’s request to perform a pregnant woman’s post-partum tubal ligation.

The hearing, held in San Francisco Superior Court today, comes on the heels of a lawsuit filed on December 28 challenging Dignity Health’s use of religious directives to deny basic reproductive health care to its patients. Filed on behalf of patient Rebecca Chamorro and Physicians for Reproductive Health, the suit argues that withholding pregnancy-related care for reasons other than medical considerations is illegal in California.

“We fight for Rebecca and on behalf of all women who have a legal right to safe and common reproductive health care,” said American Civil Liberties Union Senior Staff Attorney Brigitte Amiri. “It’s scary to see that with Catholic hospitals on the rise, more and more women are unsuspectingly finding themselves at Catholic hospitals where bishops are playing doctor and preventing actual doctors from providing the best care for their patients.”

Chamorro lives in Redding and is a patient at Dignity Health’s Mercy Medical Center, the only hospital in Redding with a labor and delivery ward. She decided with her doctor that she would get a tubal ligation during her scheduled C-section in late January. But the hospital refused her doctor’s request to perform the procedure, citing religious directives written by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops that classify sterilization procedures as “intrinsically evil.” For Chamorro, there are no hospitals within a 70-mile radius that have birthing facilities and do not follow these directives.

Along with the pill, tubal ligation is the contraceptive method most chosen by American women; one out of every four women who use contraception opt for a tubal ligation.

In August, the ACLU sent a demand letter on behalf of Rachel Miller, another Redding woman who decided with her doctor to have a tubal ligation following the C-section birth of her second child. Under the threat of a lawsuit, the hospital allowed Miller to have the procedure.

A similar demand letter was sent Dec. 2 on behalf of Chamorro, but thus far Dignity Health has refused to authorize her doctor to perform the tubal ligation.

Dignity Health is the 5th largest healthcare system in the country and the largest hospital provider in California, with 29 hospitals across the state. Ten of the 25 largest hospital systems in the U.S. are Catholic-sponsored, and nearly one of nine hospital beds in the country is in a Catholic facility.

Chamorro is not the only woman to be denied proper medical care at a Catholic hospital based. The ACLU also has filed a state agency complaint on behalf of Jessica Mann – she has brain tumors and was denied a postpartum tubal ligation at a Catholic hospital in Michigan, even though a subsequent pregnancy could have threatened her life. The ACLU also has two lawsuits pending challenging the denial of emergency medical care to women who were in the process of miscarrying and needed an abortion to protect their health, but were refused care because of the religious directives.

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