Catholic Hospital Caves Under Threat of Lawsuit and Approves Woman’s Procedure

Under the threat of a potential lawsuit, a Catholic-affiliated hospital in California’s largest hospital network made an unexpected move. It approved a previously denied doctor’s request to perform a post-partum tubal ligation, also known as “getting your tubes tied.” 

The approval from Mercy Medical Center was received yesterday, just days after we sent a letter on behalf of client Rachel Miller, charging that the hospital had unlawfully denied her reproductive health care.  

Rachel and her husband have one small child in their family and are eagerly expecting the arrival of their second baby next month. They have always known that their family would be complete with two children, so at the recommendation of her doctor, Rachel decided that she would like to get her tubes tied — a safe, standard and highly effective form of contraception — after she gives birth to their second child in late September. Her doctor fully supports this plan, as performing the procedure at the time of a C-section is the standard of care.

However, the hospital where Rachel is scheduled for delivery is part of a Catholic hospital system, and operates under binding “ethical and religious directives” issued by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. Applying these directives, which refer to sterilization for the purpose of contraception as “intrinsically evil,” the hospital denied Rachel’s doctor’s request to perform this common procedure.

Rachel was shocked that the hospital wouldn’t allow her doctor to perform the procedure and tried to appeal, without success. Because she is herself a lawyer, Rachel then thought to seek legal support from the ACLU. After we sent a letter late last week threatening to file a lawsuit if the hospital didn’t allow Rachel’s doctor to perform the tubal ligation, the hospital agreed to grant an exception and Rachel’s doctor is now scheduled to perform the procedure when she gets her C-section.

While this is certainly a win for Rachel, there remains a clear conflict between the best interests of patients and the directives of the Catholic hospital system. All women should be able to make the medical decisions that are best for them, in consultation with their doctors. And religious institutions that provide services to the general public should not be allowed to claim religion as an excuse to discriminate or deny important health care.

Catholic hospitals are increasingly ubiquitous in both California and across the United States, and they are often the only health care option for women, including in life-threatening emergencies. For instance, Rachel’s hospital is part of the Dignity Health hospital system, the fifth largest healthcare system in the country and the largest hospital provider in California, with 29 hospitals across the state. Because all of the surrounding hospitals with labor and delivery wards are also Catholic, Rachel would have needed to travel over 160 miles to get her tubal ligation covered by her insurance at the same time as her C-section.

Rachel is lucky — she stood up for herself, and she is getting the health care that she and her doctor have decided is best for her. But as long as Catholic hospitals are allowed to apply the ethical and religious directives, many women will be denied care because Catholic bishops are telling medical professionals how to operate.

Rachel’s story is not unique. To learn more about other women impacted by the Ethical and Religious Directives:


View comments (97)
Read the Terms of Use


There is no religious liberty. Liberals have seen to that. Well at least not Christian liberty. There is only one religion the ACLU has the courage to come after and that is Christianity. They force hospitals to do abortions and companies to deal with homosexuals.
They could never get away with this except that they have allies. Clowns masquerading in black robes aka liberal activist judges.


Really? Have you been prevented from worshipping in the church of your choice? Prevented from praying? Prevented from purchasing your chosen religious literature? The answer is no. No, you haven't. Christians are still a 70% majority in this country. I think you're simply uncomfortable that Christians no longer call all the shots as they once did. That stranglehold is gone.


This isn't an abortion, it's preventive. And yeah, sorry, it shouldn't be denied upon request. That's discrimination, and they receive federal tax dollars (as do all hospitals) so they'd better comply.

Anonymous Again

You apparently cannot read. This hospital serves the general public, not only Catholics. As such, they have to serve the needs of this larger community, and not just those who share their beliefs.


The hospital in question is NOT performing an abortion on the woman. Religious liberty stops when a patient needs necessary treatment.

Edmond J.O'Neil...

The ACLU says that the Constitution not the individual is their client. Except the 1st Amendment Religious right is the exception because it is not PC. In effect PC liberals have and will continue to impose their religion (agnosticism, atheism) on religionist which is defacto Establishment of Religion. They will not be satisfied until they force Catholic and others to do abortions in their own private religious institutions. Yet, they claim they protect Constitutional rights. Hobby lobby in reverse. It's all ok because if you have contempt for religion, you automatically occupy the moral and legal high ground. And, that's part of why I haven't renewed my ACLU membership the last few years. Hypocrite PCers all ! Don't expect any more responses to the comments here. Better things to do than trade insults with the intellectually and morally unwashed !


No religious liberty? Seriously? You lose all credibility when you start out an opinion with hyperbole. The 160 mile drive may have been the deciding factor as, yes, that would be an unreasonable expectation to get the healthcare that this woman desired. Do you have any statistics as to abortions or *gasp* giving healthcare to homosexuals (because it is so "christian values" to turn away a sick person because they are homosexual)? Blanket anecdotes with not reference is not worthy of debate.

And, "clowns masquerading in black robes aka liberal activist judges?" Puh-lease. What you meant to say is judges that have much more experience interpreting the law than I do but I don't personally agree.


Not allowing you and others like you to impose your religious beliefs on others is not a lack of religious liberty. Believe what you want, just don't expect anyone else to live by your beliefs.


Religious freedom is not the right to push one religion's belief structure on everybody else.
We are each entitled to our own belief, and should respect that not everybody has the same view. In trying to force others to comply with the belief system you follow, it takes away their right to do what they think is right for themselves.

Doesn't Christianity teach tolerance, and not to judge others? All people are different, and we're all beautiful, including you.
End the hate.

John Stewart

Yes, the long war on Christianity. I pray that one day we may live in an America where Christians can worship freely! In broad daylight! Openly wearing the symbols of their religion... perhaps around their necks? And maybe -- dare I dream it? -- maybe one day there can be an openly Christian President. Or, perhaps, 43 of them. Consecutively.


Stay Informed