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ACLU sues U.S. bishops over anti-abortion policies at Catholic hospitals

Jill Stanek

The other side is becoming increasingly hostile, attacking the religious freedoms of pro-life Christians with greater boldness. From The New York Times, December 2:

The American Civil Liberties Union announced on Monday that it had filed a lawsuit against the nation’s Roman Catholic bishops, arguing that their anti-abortion directives to Catholic hospitals hamper proper care of pregnant women in medical distress, leading to medical negligence.

The suit was filed in federal court in Michigan on Friday on behalf of a woman who says she did not receive accurate information or care at a Catholic hospital there, exposing her to dangerous infections after her water broke at 18 weeks of pregnancy.

In an unusual step, she is not suing the hospital, Mercy Health Partners in Muskegon, but rather the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. Its ethical and religious directives, the suit alleges, require Catholic hospitals to avoid abortion or referrals, “even when doing so places a woman’s health or life at risk.”

The suit opens a new front in the clash over religious rights and medical care. The Catholic Church has fought against requiring all health plans to include coverage of contraception and is likely to call the new lawsuit an attack on its core religious principles.

Catholic hospitals account for about one in six of the country’s hospital beds and in many regions their influence is spreading as they forge alliances with non-Catholic medical groups.

“This isn’t about religious freedom, it’s about medical care,” said Louise Melling, deputy legal director of the civil liberties union, in a telephone news conference on Monday.

LaubeSmileprch-015187x270About one of the “medical experts who reviewed the case” quoted in the story, Ryan Bomberger of The Radiance Foundation noted in an email this morning:

The article quotes Dr. Douglas W. Laube [pictured right], who they describe as an OB at the University of Wisconsin Medical School. The NYT, of course, doesn’t mention that he’s an abortionist and the Immediate Past Board Chair of Physicians for Reproductive Choice and Health.

Rest assured the viewpoint of ACLU’s “medical experts” is skewed to kill the baby. It isn’t true the baby “had virtually no chance of surviving.”

It also is not true “in these circumstances doctors usually induce labor or surgically remove the fetus to reduce the mother’s chances of infection.” Certainly no Catholic or pro-life hospital jumps to abortion in such cases. Nor does ACOG recommend it as as a first course of action over “counsel[ing] about… the risk and benefits of expectant management.”

The first noninvasive course of action is to allow nature to take its course, which in this case it did:

Tamesha Means, the plaintiff in the lawsuit, said that when she was 18 weeks pregnant her water broke and she rushed to Mercy Health, the only hospital in her county.

Her fetus had virtually no chance of surviving, according to medical experts who reviewed the case, and in these circumstances doctors usually induce labor or surgically remove the fetus to reduce the mother’s chances of infection.

But the doctors at Mercy Health, Ms. Means said, did not tell her that the fetus could not survive or that continuing her pregnancy was risky and did not admit her for observation.

She returned the next morning, bleeding and in pain, and was sent home again. That night she went a third time, feverish and writhing with pain; she miscarried at the hospital and the fetus died soon after.

At the news conference Monday, Dr. Douglas W. Laube, an obstetrician at the University of Wisconsin Medical School, described the care Ms. Means received as “basic neglect.” He added, “It could have turned into a disaster, with both baby and mother dying.”

Of course, hospital staff may have mismanaged this case particular case one way or another. But even if so, this by no means calls for the overturn of national Catholic/pro-life medical policy to try to save them both, if possible, or again, let nature take its course.

The other side claims not to want the government to meddle with medical policy on abortion.

That is, until it’s convenient.

Reprinted with permission from JillStanek.com

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