Catholic Hospital Says No to Sterilization

by Rodney Pelletier  •  •  December 29, 2015   

The ACLU is accusing Mercy Medical in Redding, California of "sexual discrimination"

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REDDING, Calif. ( - A Catholic hospital is being sued for refusing to sterilize a patient.

Mercy Medical Center in Redding, California — a Catholic hospital — is not allowing a patient's physician to perform a tubal ligation on her after she is scheduled to give birth later this month. The hospital's parent company, Dignity Health, is also named in the lawsuit.

Rebeca Chamorro currently has two children with her husband and decided that after her third is born she doesn't want anymore children. With the consent of her physician, she planned to have the procedure performed immediately following the birth of her child by c-section.

The hospital informed her doctor in September that he would not be allowed to carry out the procedure on hospital grounds because it violates "ethical and religious directives" governing Catholic hospitals. Hospital officials claim they would allow the procedure only if a future pregnancy would endanger the mother's health.

The lawsuit was originally filed with another woman but she has since had a miscarriage and is no longer a plaintiff.

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), which is representing Chamorro, maintains Mercy Medical and Dignity Health are engaging in "sexual discrimination" against Chamorro, saying California law "does not permit hospitals open to the general public and supported by public funds to deny patients medically indicated pregnancy-related care. Nor does it permit corporate entities to elevate their theological tenets over patient health."

Dignity Health made a statement maintaining that tubal ligations can't be performed by Catholic hospitals and that if they won't offer the procedure, they will direct a patient to another hospital that will.

A lawyer for Mercy Medical commented that the hospital can't be guilty of "sexual discrimination" because it refuses sterilization procedures for men as well. California law, however, states that any refusal of "reproductive services" to a woman is sexual discrimination.

Dignity Health owns 32 hospitals in California, half of which are Catholic.

Mercy Medical made headlines in August when it first refused to carry out a sterilization, but then reversed the decision after pressure from the ACLU and further consultation with the patient's physician. There was no indication the sterilization met the hospital's criteria as being necessary because the mother's health was endangered.

An ACLU lawyer commented, "That's great that they are willing to do that for some women," but went on to criticizing the hospital, saying the patient "is just one of many women who risk being denied care because Catholic bishops are telling medical professionals how to operate."

Mercy Medical and Dignity Health are also being sued by Physicians for Reproductive Health, a group of doctors promoting abortion, contraception and sterilization around the world.

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