Here’s why the ACLU is going to war with Catholic hospitals

Here’s why the ACLU is going to war with Catholic hospitals

The ACLU smacked down an attempt by a Catholic hospital to refuse sterilization to a woman -- but a bigger fight could be looming.

As we recently reported, the American Civil Liberties Union went on the attack against a Catholic hospital that attempted to refuse a woman’s request to be sterilized after having a child, and the hospital backed down, but a bigger battle could be on the horizon.

The ACLU threatened Mercy Medical Center with a sex discrimination lawsuit after Rachel Miller requested to have her tubes tied after she has her baby in a month and was denied. The hospital, which is affiliated with the Catholic church, said sterilization goes against their ethical and religious beliefs. The hospital backed down after the ACLU threatened to sue, but the policy remains in place, and more battles could be on the horizon.

In fact, the hospital apparently thought it had a pretty good case, with Dignity Health — the company that owns the hospital — arguing that a sex discrimination case would be baseless because the ban on sterilization applies to both men and women.

There are also other legal procedures the hospital won’t perform on religious grounds, including abortions and in vitro fertilization.

This latest case could provide a springboard for a legal challenge against those barriers to other reproductive procedures at Catholic hospitals. Because these hospitals receive state money, using religion to discriminate or to deny certain health care could be a violation of civil rights, the ACLU believes. The hospital receives state Medi-Cal funds as well as federal funding.

The ACLU, in addition to making sex discrimination accusations, stated that a corporate entity’s religious beliefs was overriding a doctor’s medical decision, which would be a violation of state law.

As it turns out, the Rachel Miller case could be an extremely important one in the big picture.

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