The Federal Government Must Stop Catholic Hospitals From Harming More Women

Unfortunately, it’s increasingly a common story. A woman who is expecting a baby rushes to the hospital knowing that something is going horribly awry. Her heart rate is elevated, and she is bleeding. Sadly, the pregnancy is doomed. Crying and upset, she realizes she needs an abortion because she knows the pregnancy won’t make it to term.   And she knows she is getting sicker.   

But in this particular story, the hospital is Catholic, and the medical staff refused to provide an abortion based on Catholic directives that dictate what care can be provided in Catholic hospitals. Instead of providing her with appropriate care, the hospital kept her for six hours watching her bleed. They finally “discharged” her to the parking lot so that a relative could drive her to another hospital to get the care she needed. But by that time, she had lost so much blood that she needed a transfusion of seven pints and emergency surgery.

This story is real, and so is this woman (who is thankfully alive). Her story is one of several complaints against Catholic hospitals – which take billions of taxpayer dollars to serve the public - that have been lodged with the federal agency that oversees hospitals. 

We know that there are more complaints, including the one filed by Faith Groesbeck, a public health researcher, who discovered several stories of women denied proper emergency care during miscarriages at one Catholic hospital in Michigan. One woman described in Ms. Groesbeck’s complaint was turned away by the Catholic hospital twice while miscarrying and given only Tylenol for a potentially deadly infection. The woman ended up miscarrying by herself on the toilet at home.  

It’s very strange, then, that when we filed a Freedom of Information Act request back in 2014 seeking these complaints we received none of them. That’s why today we filed a lawsuit under FOIA to get all documents related to complaints against Catholic hospitals.

We assume there are other complaints that we don’t know about yet. As our recent report documents, the number of Catholic hospitals continues to climb, along with the number of women coming forward to tell their story of being denied care at a Catholic hospital. In 2016, one in six hospital beds in the U.S. are in a facility that complies with Catholic directives, which prohibit a range of reproductive health care, even when a woman’s life or health is in jeopardy.

We know that the government knows there is a problem. The government’s answer to today’s lawsuit will tell us precisely what they know. And we expect them to help fix this problem and use federal law to protect women.

Hospitals violate the law when they refuse to provide emergency medical care or provide information about a patient’s condition. The federal government should systematically investigate Catholic hospitals and hold them accountable. No woman should rush to the hospital and fear for her life because of religious rules that force hospitals to turn patients away without providing the proper care.

If you have been denied proper care at a Catholic hospital, we’d like to hear from you.

Lend your voice to the fight and demand investigations of the violations.

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Charles Fessel

I recently filed charges with the D.O.J against a Catholic hospital for attempted murder, it's the second time in the past 13 years their's been an attempt.


As usual ACLU shows how hypocritical it is. It supports religious freedom yet doesn't care about it push come to shove. Don't go to a catholic hospital. Simple.


It's interesting how all these people supposedly know someone that had things like this happen yet no one has had it happen to them. Obviously this stuff happens. It happens in EVERY hospital. It's called negligence. People always talk about the molestation also. That was so sad and I feel awful for those kids and the church did drop the ball on that. But look at percentages. The Catholic church has more molestation overall however protestant churches have a higher percentage of molestation. And if you combine Baptists with Methodists with whoever else they have the higher number. People just love to attack the Catholic church. It's sad and wrong what happened to those kids involving priests. It's also sad that you only seem to see them reporting the Catholic ones.


Freedom of religion is enshrined in the 1st Amendment. The ACLU thinks that the right to an abortion overrides that.


You can't receive brain surgery at every hospital either. Why aren't you going after hospits that don't provide every service for every affliction. It's because you have a vendetta against what is good, what is true and what is beautiful. The ACLU will continue to push its radical secular ideology on the masses. It wants to silence the voice of people of faith until it's agenda is met. The ACLU works to stop Catholics from practicing their faith by providing care to the marginalized and poor. The ACLU will not stop its ideological mission to destroy truth. Catholics have rights too!! And we aren't going to privatize our faith!!! We have rights too!!!

Good ONE

As a healthcare administrator of a Catholic hospital I can say that women who are bleeding will not be denied miscarriage services, but if they want an abortion they'll need to go to the chumps at planned parenthood.


I don't know what you people can't seem to understand...hospitals are BUSINESSES. Just like grocery store or electric company, they provide SERVICES that, although they may help you, you're not entitled to. Any hospital is free to pick and choose what services the provide. Period. Don't like it? Go to a different hospital.


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