Hospital Refuses Pregnancy-Related Care Again Because of Religious Directives

Today we filed a lawsuit 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.

Rebecca 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 (otherwise known as getting your tubes tied) 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 Rebecca, there are no hospitals within a 70-mile radius that have birthing facilities and do not follow these directives.

The refusal of hospitals to allow doctors to perform basic health procedures based solely on religious doctrine presents a real threat to a woman’s ability to access health care. Patients seeking medical care from public institutions should not have to worry that religious doctrine rather than medical judgment will dictate what care they receive.

In addition to the lawsuit, we're also filing an emergency motion asking the court to prevent Dignity Health from using the religious directives to interfere with Rebecca's care so that her doctor can perform the procedure during her scheduled delivery in January. A hearing on this motion is scheduled for Jan. 5 at 11 am in San Francisco Superior Court.

Tubal ligation, known familiarly as “getting one’s tubes tied,” is the contraceptive method of choice for more than 30 percent of U.S. married women of reproductive age. An estimated 600,000 women undergo this procedure each year. For women who want a tubal ligation, performing it immediately following delivery (or postpartum) is best practice and aligns with medical standards of care.

In August, we 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 Rebecca, but Dignity Health has to date 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.

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Bobby Dias

Today I heard Elizabeth Gill say on tv that Dignity Health is a hospital chain- that is absolutely false. Dignity Health provides administration services under contract to owners of hospitals. In other words, Dignity Health is the "hired help" alongside other contractors that provide services to the owners of those hospitals.

Anonymous

My daughter in law just had her third child. She is 20 and wanted to have her tubes tied. She was denied by Oroville Hospita cal and told she has to be 21 for them to do it. Not a religious hospital.

Rudolf

Hey Kelsey, teach your daughter to keep her legs together!

Anonymous

Hey Rudolph, do you believe women naturally become pregnant by themselves?

Anonymous

Denying a Tubal Ligation because of religious affiliation is a travesty. This places a woman's rights to live/survive in some cases, literally. Pregnancy can literally risk life for some women. This woman had EVERY RIGHT to have a Tubal Ligation done by her Board Certified Physician at the time of delivery, or shortly there after, if medically stable. DOES THIS HOSPITAL ACCEPT ANY MEDICARE OR MEDICAID FUNDING? In my opinion, THIS FUNDING NEEDS TO BE WITHDRAWN to this hospital who clearly discriminates against women, at least this woman. Has anyone filed a complaint with the JCAHO, a respected accrediting body? This woman needs to be heard. This is a huge example of DISCRIMINATION AGAINST THIS WOMAN AND REPRESENTS BLATANT DISCRIMINATION AGAINST RIGHTS OF WOMEN TO KNOW WHEN THEY HAVE COMPLETED THE NUMBER OF CHILDREN they can care for or want. WOULD A WOMAN WHO DOES NOT WANT CHILDREN EVER BE ALLOWED TO CHOOSE A TUBAL LIGATION proactively? What is the policy for males who want a VASECTOMY? Has a VASECTOMY ever been performed in that hospital system? Have males been refused their right to decide to limit their ability to procreate by choosing a VASECTOMY? (Yes, the Physician does explicit pre and post op patient teaching to include reducing failure rates, and makes sure the patient knows these procedures considered permanent, in spite of some reversal procedures.) Reproductive rights are being smashed, nullified, denied all over the United States. The Board of Bishops is deciding family planning and the welfare of families and children. IT IS ALSO BECAUSE CHILDREN ARE SO PRECIOUS AND WORTHY OF OUR BEST THAT I ALSO AM TAKING THIS FIRM STAND THAT PREVENTION OF PREGNANCY IS A RIGHT. The statistics on child neglect and abuse of all kinds are so horrific, and tragically end in tortuous deaths for these precious children and all too often for the mothers in particular. Yes, men can be abused also. THANK YOU ACLU for this court action.

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