ACLU Sues to Obtain Federal Complaints Against Catholic Hospitals That Refuse Women Care

Growing Concern About Prevalence of Catholic Hospitals After Report Finds 1 in 6 Hospital Beds Are in Facilities Bound by Religious Directives

May 24, 2016 10:00 am

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WASHINGTON — The American Civil Liberties Union today filed suit to obtain complaints from the federal government about women refused emergency care because of the religious beliefs of the hospitals.

The Freedom of Information Act suit filed against the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) seeks documents related to complaints filed against Catholic hospitals on behalf of women who have been denied emergency treatment or information, in violation of federal law.

“We’ve heard heartbreaking stories from women who rushed to a Catholic hospital in an emergency but were turned away because the hospital let religious rules written by bishops dictate what medical care could be provided,” said ACLU Senior Staff Attorney Brigitte Amiri. “Today, we are seeking complaints filed with the government about these unlawful and harmful practices. We call on the government to undertake a systematic investigation into the denial of appropriate care in Catholic hospitals and to take action to protect women and ensure that they get the care they need.”

In 2014, the ACLU filed a FOIA request with CMS but received no meaningful response. The ACLU has evidence that complaints have been filed, some of which served as the basis for a lawsuit filed against Trinity Health, the second largest Catholic hospital system in the country.

Earlier this month, the ACLU in partnership with MergerWatch published a report that revealed that one in six hospital beds in the U.S. is in a facility that is Catholic run. There has been a 22 percent increase in the number of Catholic hospitals since 2001. The report featured stories of women and doctors who were refused care because of their hospitals’ religious directives.

The ACLU has long fought for religious freedom, but that right cannot be used to discriminate against or harm others.

A copy of the FOIA lawsuit can be found at:

A petition calling the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services to investigate these violations can be found at:

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