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WASHINGTON (ChurchMilitant.com) - Medical ethics at the world's largest Catholic health organization is coming under review by the federal government, thanks to the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), which filed a complaint Tuesday, October 25, with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services' Office for Civil Rights against Ascension Health and its subsidiary Genesys Health System.
The ACLU has been trying
to force both Catholic health networks to perform sterilizations but has been stymied in the courts at the state level. This particular case began
last October when Genesys Regional Medical Center in Grand Blanc, Michigan refused to perform a sterilization on Jessica Mann.
Responding to a complaint lodged at that time by the ACLU in conjunction with the refusal, Johnny Smith, spokesman for Ascension Health, affirmed
, "As a Catholic healthcare system, we follow the ethical and religious directives of the Church." Mann subsequently got a sterilization at another hospital but said the hospital's refusal put much stress on her.
Genesys Health subsequently released
a memo last October as well citing the Catholic guidelines
under which it operates.
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 an unrelated case in June 2015, a federal judge in Grand Rapids, Michigan dismissed an ACLU-backed case that tried to force Catholic hospitals to violate their code of ethics. At that time, U.S. District Judge Robert Holmes Bell dismissed the lawsuit, ruling 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."
The ACLU, which has had similarly poor results
across the country, is now bypassing the state courts in an attempt to draw the federal government into the battle.
The HHS's Office for Civil Rights has yet to respond.
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