Federal Judge: No Abortions at Catholic Hospitals

News: Government
by Bradley Eli, M.Div., Ma.Th.  •  ChurchMilitant.com  •  April 12, 2016   

Federal court rules Catholic hospitals can follow Church teaching

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DETROIT (ChurchMilitant.com) - A federal court dismissed a lawsuit Monday seeking to force Catholic hospitals to perform emergency abortions.

The U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan, Southern Division, threw out a lawsuit Monday from the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) that sought to force Trinity Health Corporation, based in Livonia, to provide abortions against Church teaching.

Trinity, which operates 86 hospitals in 21 states, was sued last October by the ACLU for allegedly failing to provide emergency abortions for women with life-threatening complications.

Judge Gershwin A. Drain threw out the "dubious" case, reasoning that there was "not sufficient standing" after "considering the vagueness of the allegation."

Judge Drain stated,

Obviously, pregnancy alone is not a 'particular condition' that requires the termination of said pregnancy. To find the claim ripe for review on the facts pleaded before this Court would be to grant a cause of action to every pregnant woman in the state of Michigan upon the date of conception.

A federal judge in Grand Rapids dismissed a similar case last year when the ACLU sued Muskegon's Mercy Health Partners, which also refused to perform emergency abortions.

At that time, U.S. District Judge Robert Holmes Bell dismissed the lawsuit without a hearing. Judge Bell said he threw out the case because the court has no jurisdiction over Church policy and that it's improper for courts to interfere in religious doctrinal decisions.

Judge Bell wrote, "It is not up to the Court to mandate the larger structural and policy reform to Catholic hospitals that Plaintiff seeks; that issue is left to the Church and its tribunals."

Kevin Theriot, senior counsel for Alliance Defending Freedom, representing Trinity, said in a press release Monday, "No law requires religious hospitals and medical personnel to commit abortions against their faith and conscience, and, in fact, federal law directly prohibits the government from engaging in such coercion."

"Those who doubt that anyone would ever try to force someone to commit an abortion need only look at this case," remarked Matt Bowman, co-counsel in the case. "This is precisely what the ACLU sought to do. The court came to the right conclusion in putting an end to their quest."

Eve Pidgeon, spokeswoman for Trinity, affirmed,

Catholic directives are entirely consistent with high-quality health care, and our clinicians continue to provide superb care throughout the communities we serve. We are proud that more than 25,000 licensed physicians work directly with our health system and share our commitment to people-centered care.

Ten out of the 25 largest hospital systems in the United States are Catholic, providing nearly one out of every nine hospital beds.

To learn more about the crisis in many Catholic hospitals, watch "Mic'd Up—Catholic Hospital Crisis."


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