October 23, 2015 — After giving birth and obtaining a tubal ligation at a non-Catholic hospital, a Michigan woman who was denied the procedure by a Catholic hospital will move forward with her complaint against the Catholic facility, the Washington Post's "Post Nation" reports (Somashekhar, "Post Nation," Washington Post, 10/21).
Sterilization is the second-most-common birth control method in the U.S. Ob-gyns often perform tubal ligations in conjunction with cesarean sections so women do not require a second surgery for the sterilization. A sterilization procedure is performed at the end of about one in 10 U.S. childbirths (Women's Health Policy Report, 9/15). According to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, a tubal ligation immediately following a woman's last intended pregnancy should be considered "urgent" care because of the "limited time frame" in which the sterilization may be performed and "the consequences of a missed procedure" (American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists committee opinion, July 2012).
In the past, some Catholic hospitals provided sterilizations if they were medically indicated, such as when a woman was undergoing a C-section and another pregnancy would present a health risk. However, around the early 2000s, the Vatican sought stricter enforcement of the Ethical and Religious Directives for Catholic Health Care Services, which ban Catholic facilities from performing sterilizations, abortions and certain other procedures. Meanwhile, the number of Catholic hospitals in the U.S. increased by 16% from 2001 to 2011.
Denial of Care
Jessica Mann, who was pregnant with her third child, was diagnosed 10 years ago with a certain type of brain tumor that can cause blindness, paralysis and other problems. She was advised by her doctor to undergo a tubal ligation after the birth because of her condition.
Genesys Regional Medical Center enacted a policy against sterilization in October 2014, citing the Catholic directives, but said it would make exceptions for medical reasons. Mann requested such an exception from the hospital in May but was denied in September.
That month, the American Civil Liberties Union in a letter to the hospital threatened legal action for denying Mann the procedure (Women's Health Policy Report, 9/15). Mann later put in a complaint with state officials, stating that the hospital acted negligently when it refused to provide the tubal ligation.
Legal Action Continues
The ACLU of Michigan this week said Mann will not be dropping her complaint against Genesys filed with state regulators last week.
Brooke Tucker, an ACLU of Michigan staff attorney, said, "Jessica Mann was forced to abandon her longtime doctor, one with years of familiarity with her, her brain tumor, and its effect on pregnancy, and, in less than a month, find a new doctor, build rapport, get her up to speed on her precarious health condition, and convince her insurance company to cover treatment from her new, out-of-network provider."
Tucker added, "All of this occurred because a hospital chose to follow religious standards rather than medical ones" ("Post Nation," Washington Post, 10/21).