Fighting for Emergency Care for Pregnant Women at Catholic Hospitals

When you’re pregnant, what can go wrong is often the last thing you want to think about.  Unfortunately, the unimaginable sometimes happens: you’re in the middle of your pregnancy when all of a sudden your amniotic fluid starts to leak.  You’re in extreme pain.  You start to bleed.  You start to get a fever.  You rush to the nearest hospital.  You’d expect that any hospital emergency room would provide you the proper care.  Right?  Unfortunately, that’s not the case if you end up at a Catholic hospital. 

Today we announced a lawsuit against one of the nation’s largest Catholic health care systems, for imposing religious rules on its staff that prevent doctors from performing an abortion in emergency cases involving miscarriage or other pregnancy complications—even when a woman’s life is at risk. We’re suing Trinity Health Corporation after discovering that it has repeatedly failed to provide women suffering pregnancy complications with appropriate emergency abortion care as required by federal law.   

Trinity Health Corporation, which owns and operates more than 80 hospitals around the country, requires that all of its facilities abide by the Ethical and Religious Directives promulgated by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops.   These directives prohibit a doctor working at a Catholic hospital from terminating a woman’s pregnancy even when the failure to do so puts her health or life at risk.    

These directives are written by Catholic bishops, not licensed medical professionals, and should not dictate how doctors practice medicine, especially when it violates federal law.

The failure to provide pregnant women appropriate emergency care, including an abortion when the circumstances warrant, violates a federal law called the Emergency Medical Treatment and Active Labor Act, known as EMTALA.  A public health educator in Michigan discovered that at one of Trinity’s hospitals alone, at least five women who were suffering from miscarriages and needed urgent care were denied that care because of the Catholic directives.

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. The directives bar doctors at those hospitals from offering — or even discussing — certain reproductive health care services, even when those services are necessary to protect a woman’ s health. As U.S. hospitals become increasingly affiliated with religious organizations, the health of American women is threatened by the refusal to provide medically appropriate and often times lifesaving services.

In December 2013, we sued the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops on behalf of Tamesha Means, a woman who was denied appropriate medical treatment because the only hospital in her county is required by the bishops to follow religious directives that put women’s health at risk. That case is currently on appeal.  Today, we are suing Trinity on behalf of all of our members in every state where Trinity operates to make sure this never happens again, and no woman is ever denied the emergency care she needs.

We all have a right to our religious beliefs, but that does not mean we should be able to use those beliefs to harm others. Legally and morally, saving a woman’s life and health must be every hospital’s first priority.  Every pregnant woman who enters an emergency room should be guaranteed that she will get the care she needs. 

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Anonymous

Here we go again. They Aclu war on Christianity. I thought these people were supposed to believe in freedom? When is someone suppose to be forced to perform an abortion aka infanticide? I love how these stories always end with the ACLU saying we believe in religious liberty. Let's face it the ACLU hate Jesus and Christianity. They want us to be forced to cut babies out of the womb and kill them and they want us to have to perform perverted marriages.

Anonymous

Lol.

Anonymous

Nobody is cutting wombs open and butchering infants. That's what the bible says to do. And I'm tired of christian terrorists trying to make all these horrible claims about abortion procedures. They're all lies propagated by terrorist scum to try to shock the uneducated and garner support.

And if you're offended by the fact that I'm calling out all christians as terrorists, look up the definition of terrorism. "The use of violence, fear, or threats to coerce others, especially for political gain." All christians are, by definition, terrorists. Don't like it? Too bad.

Anonymous

Anonymous user, is that your personal view you are imposing? Does that make you a terrorist yourself? Did you read the Bible and research abortion procedures before claiming "nobody does that" and "that's what the Bible says to do" ? I would assume that by your wording of "the uneducated" you are highly qualified to make such claims yourself... right?

Ellen

When should someone be forced to perform an abortion?

When that someone is a surgeon at a hospital and their patient is suffering unnecessarily for lack of said abortion. That is exactly precisely the time when someone should be forced to perform an abortion whether they like it or not. If the don't like it, they should find another job. If they refuse, they should expect to get their ass sued or even face the possibility of being thrown in jail.

About time someone told these jerks they're not allowed to abuse women.

Ellen

When should someone be forced to perform an abortion?

When that someone is a surgeon and their patient is suffering unnecessarily for lack of said abortion. That is exactly precisely the time that someone has a moral obligation to perform an abortion. If they can't promise to do that, then they should find another job. If religiously-affiliated hospitals insist on refusing to provide necessary care according to federal guidelines, then they should expect to be sued. They are not being persecuted, they are being told to do their jobs.

No one is telling religious institutions that they have to perform marriages. That does not happen. Get over your persecution complex already.

Anonymous

Reach any further and you might touch your imaginary God!

Anonymous

So!!!anonymous is so secure in his belief that he will not sign his name.Chicken

Anonymous

Great idea. We should close those hospitals and then those women will have even less care.

Anon

You realize that these hospitals are bound by their religious dogma to do absolutely nothing for the women that suffer from these pregnancy complications, right? Keeping these centers running like they are or closing down them down would do absolutely nothing about the aforementioned women with pregnancy complications. What would be a more cogent solution is to sue the pants off these "medical practitioners" until they do their job or they need to be replaced with those that will actually do the job they signed up for.

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