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SAN FRANCISCO (ChurchMilitant.com) - A transgender in California can now sue a Catholic hospital for discrimination for canceling a hysterectomy.
"Evan" Minton filed a suit in 2017 against non-profit hospital operator Dignity Health.
Mercy San Juan Medical Center, one of the 35 hospitals operated by Dignity Health, canceled Minton's scheduled hysterectomy in 2016 after the patient mentioned being transgender to a nurse. Dignity Health worked to get Minton's procedure transferred to another, non-Catholic hospital — but Minton says this was only done after pressure.
The lawsuit that Minton filed was dismissed by a lower court. But in a decision on Tuesday, the First District Court of Appeal in San Francisco has overturned that dismissal.
Justice Stuart R. Pollak wrote for a unanimous three-judge panel, "Any burden [that state law] places on the exercise of religion is justified by California's compelling interest in ensuring full and equal access to medical treatment for all its residents."
Minton's attorneys claim that Dignity Health discriminated against their client because the Catholic hospital declined to surgically remove her uterus — a first step in "transitioning" from female to male.
The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Northern California is representing Minton in the case.
Regarding Tuesday's decision from the appeals court, ACLU attorney Elizabeth Gill said that it "confirmed that our state nondiscrimination law, the Unruh Act, requires 'full and equal' access, and that doesn't mean turning a person away from a facility."
After Tuesday's ruling, Dignity Health said in a statement, "Our services are available to everyone without discrimination and all are welcome at our care sites. Catholic hospitals do not perform sterilizing procedures such as hysterectomies for any patient regardless of their gender identity, unless there is a serious threat to the life or health of the patient."
Dignity Health is the largest hospital chain in California and the fifth largest in the United States.
Norms for Catholic hospitals in the United States are supposed to be based on a document from the U.S. bishops' conference titled "Ethical and Religious Directives for Catholic Health Care Services."
That document says about sterilization, "Direct sterilization of either men or women, whether permanent or temporary, is not permitted in a Catholic health care institution. Procedures that induce sterility are permitted when their direct effect is the cure or alleviation of a present and serious pathology and a simpler treatment is not available."
In their 2017 legal complaint, Minton's attorneys argued, "Because [Dignity Health] routinely allows Dr. [Lindsey] Dawson and other physicians to perform hysterectomies for patients on the bases of diagnoses other than gender dysphoria, [Dignity Health's] refusal to allow Dr. Dawson to perform Mr. Minton's hysterectomy constitutes discrimination against Mr. Minton because of his gender identity."
This "discrimination," the complaint went on to state, "violates California's Unruh Civil Rights Act, which broadly prohibits business establishments from discriminating in the provision of goods and services to the general public."
Minton once argued in the lower court that "it cannot constitute full equality ... to cancel [a patient's] procedure for a discriminatory purpose, wait to see if his doctor complains, and only then attempt to reschedule the procedure at a different hospital."
In similar news, Church Militant reported earlier this month on a lawsuit in Colorado against Centura Health Corp for refusing to perform euthanasia on a terminally ill patient.
The hospital, owned by the Catholic Church and the Seventh-Day Adventists, would not allow a physician employed there to take part in the assisted suicide of patient Neil Mahoney.
In January 2017, a lawsuit was filed against St. Joseph's Regional Medical Center in Paterson, New Jersey, when the hospital refused to perform a hysterectomy for a transgender hoping to transition.