Any Catholic hospital worthy of its professed Catholic mission has a policy prohibiting sterilizations which the vast majority of its patients find either antiquated, arbitrary or appalling.
This policy is in accordance with the Ethical and Religious Directives for Catholic Health Care Services (ERD), a set of rules first issued in 1971 by what is now the U.S Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB). More importantly, the policy against sterilizations conforms to right reason and the natural moral law. It isn't some sectarian peculiarity that Catholic hospitals maintain in order to assert a mere cultural identity; it's a rule that, in a morally just society, every hospital would honor, since it isn't just Catholics who are called to be moral or to uphold morality.
The ERD forbid what is called "direct sterilization," that is, any procedure done with the intention of causing sterility — as opposed to indirect sterilization, which would be any medical procedure intended to resolve a health problem that also happens to result in sterility as an unintended, undesired side effect.
The secular world, steeped in its contraceptive mentality, is of course hostile to this approach, which has come to be considered almost exclusively Catholic. Most recently, St. Anthony Summit Medical Center in Frisco, Colorado has been effectively threatened by the euphemistically named Center for Reproductive Rights (or CRR, an advocate for the murder of preborn babies) for refusing to perform a sterilization earlier this month.
Jennifer Versailles, a St. Anthony's patient, wanted her doctor to give her a tubal ligation during a C-section on March 15, but the hospital wouldn't allow it. The CRR wrote to the hospital, insisting its decision "violates the standard of care by subjecting her to additional and medically unnecessary health risks." In addition, it claimed that "both federal and Colorado law prohibit a hospital like St. Anthony from denying Ms. Versailles medically indicated pregnancy-related care, as doing so constitutes sex discrimination."
No legal action has been taken against the hospital yet, though the pro-abortion outfit is apparently weighing that option with Versailles. It certainly wouldn't be the first time a Catholic hospital has been sued for its adherence to the Church's moral teaching.
Two women who planned to give birth at Mercy Medical Center in Redding, California earlier this year were denied tubal ligations after deciding, with their doctor, that they didn't want to have any more children. The hospital told both patients such forms of direct sterilization defy the ERD given by the U.S. bishops.
"I know my body can't handle any more pregnancies," said Lynsie Brushett, one of the women seeking a sterilization. "We decided a tubal ligation was the best option to prevent any future unintended pregnancies, for my health and my family."
The notorious American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) argued that refusing to do the tubal ligations on the two women amounted to sexual discrimination and eventually sued. Fortunately, a San Francisco judge ended up denying the ACLU's motion to force the hospital to permit the immoral procedure.
"The problem continues to be a conflict between the best interest of patients and the directives of the Catholic hospital system," said an ACLU attorney. "This is not an anomaly in Redding. We're seeing a wide range of instances in which women's health is being put at risk by hospitals invoking the [Church's] ethical and religious directives."
Mercy Medical Center hasn't always stood so strongly in its Catholic mission, however, as it caved to the ACLU's legal threats last year after a similar situation.
Last year, the ACLU also sued the Michigan-based Trinity Health Corporation, a Catholic healthcare system, for what it claimed was "repeated and systematic failure to provide women suffering pregnancy complications with appropriate emergency abortions."
That lawsuit came shortly after the ACLU threatened to sue the Genesys Regional Medical Center outside of Flint, Michigan for denying a sterilization to one of its patients. In October 2014, Genesys released a memo clarifying that the aim of its policy against tubal ligations is to "strengthen our alignment with the Catholic Ethical and Religious Directives."
"These ethical and religious directives," claimed one ACLU lawyer, "single out women and care that women need."
The Catholic Church still takes its pro-life teaching quite seriously. In 2010, St. Joseph's Hospital and Medical Center in Phoenix allowed the murder of a baby in the womb via direct abortion, so Bp. Thomas Olmsted stripped the hospital of its Catholic status. The woman behind the decision, Sr. Margaret McBride, was excommunicated for the act.
Catholic hospitals have been lucky that so far the courts have upheld their right to policies prohibiting direct sterilizations. Yet one thing remains certain: The ACLU and groups like it won't stop harassing these hospitals until they've gotten their way.