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Catholic hospital system denies pregnant women appropriate emergency care, claims ACLU suit

Oct 1, 2015

Credit Marissa Anderson / flickr creative commons http://michrad.io/1LXrdJM

The American Civil Liberties Union and the American Civil Liberties Union of Michigan have filed a federal lawsuit against a national Catholic health system for failure to provide women suffering pregnancy complications, including miscarriages, with appropriate emergency abortions.

The ACLU claims that the Trinity Health Corporation, which is headquartered in Michigan, violates federal law by requiring its doctors to follow the Ethical and Religious Directives of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops – instead of accepted medical practice.

According to the ACLU, the directives prohibit a doctor from terminating a woman's pregnancy even when failure to do so risks the woman's health or life.

"The case is really about ensuring that Catholic hospitals follow the same medical practices as all other hospitals," said Brooke Tucker of the ACLU of Michigan.

Tucker said the accepted standard of care in emergency treatment of miscarriages is to complete the miscarriage and terminate the doomed pregnancy to prevent further risk to the woman's health or life.

"But that's not what Trinity Health does. Instead they let women become septic. They let them hemorrhage. They let them put their lives in harm's way for no other purpose than this religious policy," said Tucker. "And they do not tell them that's what they are doing."

In a written statement, Trinity Health said "This case has no merit ... The Ethical and Religious Directives are entirely consistent with high-quality health care ..."

Catholic hospitals receive public money and nearly one out of nine hospital beds in the U.S. is in a Catholic facility, according to the ACLU.