Catholic Hospitals Denied These Women Critical Care. Now They’re Speaking Out.

I am in awe of their courage, and I am heartbroken by what they have gone through. Woman after woman has come forward to tell us her story of being denied critical reproductive health care at a Catholic hospital. 

Tell Catholic hospitals to stop discriminating

Take Tamesha Means. She lives in Muskegon, Michigan, and when she was 18 weeks pregnant, she rushed to the only hospital in her community when she was having a miscarriage. She was bleeding and in excruciating pain. But because of hospital rules called the Ethical and Religious Directives for Catholic Health Care, the hospital turned her away three times over two days when the proper course would have been to end the doomed pregnancy.

Tamesha was developing a life-threatening infection, although the doctors never told her that. The hospital only provided care when she started to deliver while being discharged the third time. The baby died shortly after.  

Tamesha was devastated about the loss of her pregnancy, and she could have died. That’s no exaggeration. Women in Ireland and Italy died when their pregnancies went horribly awry and were refused a life-saving abortion because of the religious views of their providers.

Tamesha feels strongly that no one should have to go through what she went through, and we took legal action against the Catholic bishops who enforce those restrictive hospital rules. Unfortunately, we were not successful in her case, but her bravery has given other the women courage to tell their story. 

For example, we recently filed a federal agency complaint on behalf of another woman in Michigan, Jessica Mann, who suffered from brain tumors and whose doctors strongly advised her to have a tubal ligation — commonly known as “getting your tubes tied” — when she delivered her baby. Despite the fact that her doctors told her that a subsequent pregnancy could kill her, the Catholic hospital at which she planned to deliver refused to allow her doctor to perform the procedure because of the directives.        

Similarly, Rebecca Chamorro was denied a tubal ligation at the time she delivered her baby in a Catholic hospital. Even for women that don’t have an underlying health condition, a tubal ligation at the time of delivery is the safest for the woman and results in the most effective procedure. She agreed to bring a lawsuit, which is pending in California against one of the largest Catholic health systems in the country.

And Melanie Jones, a woman in Illinois, came forward after her health care provider refused to remove her intrauterine device after it had become dislodged after she fell in her home. Melanie was bleeding and cramping, but her doctor said that she was prohibited from removing the IUD because of the directives. Melanie decided to bring state and federal agency complaints against the health care system for turning her away when she needed critical care. 

All of these women — and the many others in our report — are my heroes. They were just trying to make the best decision for themselves and their families when their lives were upended by the discriminatory treatment of Catholic hospitals. We all have the right to our religious beliefs, but that right cannot be used to discriminate against others or harm them. 

Together we will make progress as more people come forward to tell their stories of discrimination. Only together will we be able to emerge from — as Samantha Bee recently put it —the Middle Ages. No one should be turned away from a hospital in her time of need. 

If you or someone you love has been turned away from a Catholic hospital, we’d like to hear from you.  

View comments (33)
Read the Terms of Use

Anonymous

Often there is an unspoken agreement that a second physician will come into the OR after being 'consulted' and state that the fallopian tubes and/or uterus have an anomaly and should be removed. Of course, this is just an administrative way around the problem

Anonymous

Catholics have every right to practice their faith. Why is it only OK to defend the"rights" of some people, but not all of them, including Christians? You can't tell me there was no other hospital. You are horrible people who decide whose rights to defend and whose to deny.

Anonymous

That's exactly what the article states: the Catholic hospital is THE hospital that provides emergency care, or is supposed to provide it, in at least 1 of these cases. Where I live in NYC the Catholic hospitals were closed by their owners for not being profitable enough, because here there are enough hospitals and the public transit to get to them, to give people a choice.

Anonymous

Yeah, we can tell you there were no other hospitals. Reread the story of the first woman. There were no other hospitals in her community.

Not every community can afford more than one hospital. In my own community I need to travel 15-20 minutes to the only hospital in that town. Or 20-25 minutes to the only hospital in a different town in a different direction. These are the closest to me.

Shall I call you a horrible person to choose faith over life?

Anonymous

There is only 1 hospital in my town and it is run by Catholics. If my wife needed critical care and they refused it based on some religious bullshit they would be meeting their maker to explain it to him in rather short order. IDGAF if you want to be religious but when that religion threatens my life , liberty. or well being then you can shove those same religious ideals down a dark oubliette. A religion is personal. When you start to use your religion as an excuse to rule over other people then it has become something that needs to be eliminated from society.

Dan M

As a 'hospital' they are there to take care of the patient, without religious BS. What happened to the doctors Hippocratic Oath?

Anonymous

The health of the patient MUST be paramount. If your religious beliefs prevent you from following that precept, you should not be a doctor (or at least not one who makes these decisions.) Many times the doctor wants to help the patient but the rules of the religious organization controlling the hospital prevent it. Doctors need to be free to act in the best interests of their patients.

Anonymous

When your "faith" risks someone's *life*, that's when your rights end. Reproductive health care is healthcare. Period. If a Catholic hospital can't perform life-saving treatment, preventative treatment, or even life-improving treatment, that hospital does not deserve to be in practice. If a hospital said they *believed* that only American-born citizens should get treatment does that mean they have the "right" to turn away a Canadian having a heart-attack?

If you're still having trouble understanding this, try googling "ethics" and see what comes up.

Anonymous

Read the stories again, in the Jones case there wasn't, By the way, I doubt that you can tell me that every single doctor at all of these hospitals is "Practicing their faith" by working at those particular hospitals.

Anonymous

You're as dumb as a box of rocks.

Pages

Stay Informed