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Hospital in Redding denies 2 more women tubal ligation

A Northern California Catholic hospital that refused to let a woman’s doctor sterilize her after childbirth, then changed course after being threatened with a sex-discrimination lawsuit, has denied tubal ligations to two more pregnant women, citing religious principles.

Mercy Medical Center in Redding, owned by Dignity Health of San Francisco, is again facing a possible lawsuit by the American Civil Liberties Union on behalf of the two women, joined this time by a nationwide group, Physicians for Reproductive Health.

“California law ... does not permit hospitals open to the general public and supported by public funds to deny patients medically indicated pregnancy-related care,” lawyers for the women and the doctors’ group said Dec, 2 in a letter to the hospital and its owner. “Nor does it permit corporate entities to elevate their theological tenets over patient health.”

In response, the hospital issued a statement saying that “in general, it is our practice not to provide sterilization services at Dignity Health’s Catholic facilities” because of the “ethical and religious directives” that govern Catholic hospitals.

There is an exception, the statement added: The hospitals will allow sterilization when necessary for “the cure or alleviation of a present and serious pathology.”

The hospital did not define those terms, and their meaning is unclear, said ACLU attorney Elizabeth Gill. She said the women will go to court unless Mercy Hospital reverses its position by Wednesday and agrees to allow the women’s doctor to perform the operations.

One of the women, Lynsie Brushett, 30, is due to give birth to her second child by cesarean section in late March. She had her first child 18 months ago at the same hospital by an emergency C-section, spent five days hospitalized with severe pre-eclampsia, and agreed with her husband and her doctor that she should “have her tubes tied’’ — undergo a tubal ligation — at the same time as her next childbirth.

The procedure is used by about 600,000 women in the United States each year, according to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. The organization says a tubal ligation immediately after a woman’s last intended childbirth is such a safe and effective procedure that it should be considered “urgent” medical care.

Brushett said Mercy is the only hospital that performs labor and delivery within 70 miles of her home, and she was shocked when the hospital told her doctor in October that it would not allow the sterilization.

“To go into the hospital knowing I’m being denied reproductive health care that is best for myself and my body, it’s scary,” she said. “I just don’t feel they should be able to use religion to deny women access to reproductive health care.”

The hospital sent an identical letter in September denying tubal ligation to Rebecca Chamorro,who is due to give birth in early February and has the same doctor as Brushett.

Dignity Health, California’s largest private health care system, owns 32 hospitals in the state. More than half are affiliated with the Catholic Church, including St. Mary’s Medical Center in San Francisco.

The Catholic hospitals’ ethical and religious directives prohibit abortion, contraception, sterilization for both men and women, and reproductive-assistance technology such as in vitro fertilization. California law allows Catholic hospitals to refuse to perform abortions but does not exempt them from providing other reproductive care, including sterilization. State courts have also ruled that business owners cannot rely on freedom of religion to refuse to provide services to the public.

Mercy Medical Center initially denied a tubal ligation to another Redding woman, Rachel Miller, in August. But after the ACLU set a deadline for a sex-discrimination suit, the hospital said it would allow the operation based on new information from Miller’s doctor.

Miller underwent the surgery after giving birth in September.

Original Link: http://www.sfgate.com/news/article/Hospital-in-Redding-denies-2-more-women-tubal-6680121.php 

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