NEW YORK, December 16, 2010 (LifeSiteNews.com) - The American Civil Liberties Union has attacked Bishop Thomas Olmsted of Phoenix after news broke this week that the bishop had taken further steps against a Catholic hospital that had performed a direct abortion.

Reacting to the latest clash, Alexa Kolbi-Molinas, staff attorney with the ACLU Reproductive Freedom Project, said the staff of the St. Joseph’s Hospital and Medical Center “did the right thing” by killing an unborn child late last year to avert aggravation of the mother’s pulmonary hypertension.

“A hospital’s first responsibility must be to protect the health of its patient,” said Kolbi-Molinas in a statement Wednesday. “Religiously affiliated hospitals are not exempt from federal laws that protect a patient’s right to receive emergency care, and cannot invoke their religious status to jeopardize the health and lives of pregnant women.”

The pro-abortion wing of the advocacy group had already written to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services in July of this year urging them to investigate Catholic hospitals that refuse to perform direct abortions as a matter of Catholic moral principle.

The Arizona Republic had revealed earlier this week that Bishop Olmsted had offered an ultimatum to the hospital’s parent company in order to keep their official Catholic status. The bishop said the hospital would have to backtrack on its endorsement of the abortion, submit to a diocesan review, and agree to ongoing staff training on the U.S. bishops’ Ethical and Religious Directives.

Should the hospital not comply, it would still be able to call itself “Catholic,” but the diocese would officially renounce the facility and priests would no longer be permitted to conduct Mass there.