Yesssssssssss. It’s about fucking time.

USA Today: Woman sues over Catholic hospitals’ abortion rule

DETROIT — A Michigan woman is taking on the nation’s Catholic hospitals in federal court, alleging they are forcing pregnant women in crisis into having painful miscarriages rather than terminate the pregnancy — and not giving them any options.

The Muskegon woman, who developed an infection and miscarried 18 weeks into her pregnancy, sued the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops on Monday, alleging the group’s anti-abortion directive denies proper medical care to women like herself.

In her case, the lawsuit said, the directive contributed to a painful miscarriage and offered her no options.

In other words, a potential Savita Halappanavar, with the difference being that she survived. It’s good that she survived, but no thanks to the USCCB for that.

The case involves Tamesha Means, who was rushed to Mercy Health Partners in Muskegon in December 2010 when her water broke after 18 weeks of pregnancy. The hospital sent her home twice, even though she was in “excruciating pain;” there was virtually no chance that her pregnancy could survive, and continuing the pregnancy posed a significant risk to the mother’s health, she alleged in the lawsuit.

Exactly like Savita Halappanavar – except that University Hospital Galway didn’t send Halappanavar home; it kept her there to die while the staff watched.

But because of its Catholic affiliation and directives, the hospital told Means that there was nothing it could do, and it did not tell her that abortion was an option, she alleged in the lawsuit. When Means returned to the hospital a third time in extreme distress and with an infection, the hospital still tried to send her home, but Means began to deliver while staff prepared her discharge paperwork.

At that point, the hospital tended to her miscarriage.

That should be a prosecutable crime. Not just a lawsuit; a crime.

You know, I reported on this situation in my talk at Empowering Women Through Secularism in Dublin last summer. I’ve seen comments from [cough] hostile observers saying I just made it up. No I didn’t. The USCCB is real; the ERD is real; Catholic hospitals and healthcare networks are real; the fact that many Catholic hospitals obey the ERD instead of secular law is real. I didn’t make any of it up.

Officials at Mercy Health Partners declined comment. So did the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, which deferred to its 43-page Ethical and Religious Directives for Catholic Health Care Services.

Under the directives: “Abortion … is never permitted. Every procedure whose sole immediate effect is the termination of pregnancy before viability is an abortion.” The directives also defend the practice of denying patient requests for certain medical procedures, stating it “does not offend the rights of individual conscience by refusing to provide or permit medical procedures that are judged morally wrong by the teaching authority of the Church.”

The ACLU of Michigan, which filed a lawsuit on behalf of Means, disagrees, arguing Catholic hospitals are putting their beliefs before the health and welfare of its patients. In Means’ case, the ACLU argued, the directives prohibited the hospital from complying with the applicable standard of care. Consequently, it argues, the bishop’s conference is ultimately responsible for the unnecessary trauma and harm that Means and other pregnant women in similar situations have experienced at Catholic-sponsored hospitals.

Again – yessssssss. This is so overdue. This is a case to watch.



  1. says

    This is a big deal to me: the hospital where my doctors have privileges was consumed by a Catholic chain (Providence) two years ago. As 1) an openly gay 2) atheist who is 3) HIV+, I am on three of the Church’s “better off dead” lists. I most certainly would not want to end up as a patient in there, and do not ever want to end up with my life in the hands of Catholic religious fanatics.

    Washington State has seen almost a third of its hospitals turned into religious missions in the last couple of years, with even more in the works. In much of the state, there is no longer ANY option except the Catholic Church. This must be stopped.

  2. says

    And Ophelia, you probably linked this article from The Stranger before; I hope you don’t mind if I present it again.

    Faith Healers: Catholics Are Taking Over Local Hospitals, Imposing Their Faith on Your Health Care, and Planning to Deny Certain Treatments for Patients Who Are Pregnant or Dying

    In addition to women’s health services and my own concerns about HIV care, Washington State has a “death with dignity” law. The Catholic Church has fought tooth and nail against it, and has — several times — overridden patient and family wishes to transfer patients to non-Catholic facilities that will honor that law. Imagine, living in a vegetative state, in great pain, able to communicate your wish to die in a state that will allow you to do so, being held hostage by fanatics with a financial interest in preserving your life for as long as humanly possible. That is exactly what we have in Washington right now.

  3. bl says

    This scenario happened to me at 20 weeks, and I was sent to a Catholic hospital by Group Health Cooperative. I was “fortunate”, that the baby died within 24 hours and they induced labor. Before that it was all “Go home on strict bedrest”.

  4. Al Dente says

    I wonder if the USCCB could be prosecuted for practicing medicine without a license. Probably not, but it is a nice thought.

  5. Beatrice, an amateur cynic looking for a happy thought says

    Malpractice? Endangering the life of patients? Are American movies the only place American doctors still care about the Hippocratic oath?

    So many questions…

  6. says

    That should be a prosecutable crime. Not just a lawsuit; a crime.

    It absolutely should. It’s outrageous that not only have these people not been criminally charged, but they’re still allowed to practice medicine while openly flouting the Hippocratic oath and any basic compassion and decency. They’re intentionally causing women, their patients, to suffer and die. How is this guy practicing medicine?

  7. Al Dente says

    SC @6

    A guy who claims to be “pro-life” is pro-death for people who don’t agree with his opinion.

  8. unbound says

    I agree. It’s about fricking time that this happened.

    And it absolutely should be a crime. When will the “pro-life” crowd actually start caring about life instead only caring about fetuses? They are nothing more than hypocrits.

  9. Nentuaby says

    jagwired: “Hippocratic oaths” are named in honor of the tradition begun by Hippocrates of swearing an oath upon taking up medicine, but the oath administered to modern physicians is not the actual oath of Hippocrates, which is considered outdated on many fronts. (I mean, it’s rooted in Hellenic Paganism. It’s not going to fly in most modern cultures no matter what it prescribes medically.)

    It’s typically either a modernized version of Hippocrates’ oath with the bad bits chopped out (your mileage may vary as to which those are, naturally), an oath totally unique to the medical school, or this from the World Medical Association:

    At the time of being admitted as a member of the medical profession:
    * I solemnly pledge to consecrate my life to the service of humanity;
    * I will give to my teachers the respect and gratitude that is their due;
    * I will practice my profession with conscience and dignity;
    * The health of my patient will be my first consideration;
    * I will respect the secrets that are confided in me, even after the patient has died;
    * I will maintain by all the means in my power, the honour and the noble traditions of the medical profession;
    * My colleagues will be my sisters and brothers;
    * I will not permit considerations of age, disease or disability, creed, ethnic origin, gender, nationality, political affiliation, race, sexual orientation, social standing or any other factor to intervene between my duty and my patient;
    * I will maintain the utmost respect for human life;
    * I will not use my medical knowledge to violate human rights and civil liberties, even under threat;
    * I make these promises solemnly, freely and upon my honour.

  10. coffeehound says

    I wonder if the USCCB could be prosecuted for practicing medicine without a license.

    No but they are responsible for maintaining a standard of care that must meet a standard of the most up to date practices of specialists in that area if they provide that service. IOW if they provide emergency services and a termination is within the scope of reasonable therapeutic options, they should be liable if they don’t provide it.
    This is what drives me crazy about Catholic hospitals and ER/ Ob services, if they opt out of a viable option because it’s too icky for them in spite of being the standard of care they have no business providing healthcare or buying out an entire area of the service area of a state.

    Oh, and the Hippocratic Oath stopped being relevant decades ago, most classes create their own or use a basic template of one created a few decades ago;

  11. deepak shetty says

    That should be a prosecutable crime. Not just a lawsuit; a crime.
    Absolutely. Any lawyers that can weigh in here?

  12. karmacat says

    What I don’t understand is how concrete these people are. Since god is supposedly omniscient, wouldn’t he know that the fetus couldn’t survive the miscarriage. Therefore, he would understand that doctors would have to do an abortion to ensure the woman stays healthy.

  13. Al Dente says

    karmacat @13

    A group of geriatric male virgins have decided that god is anti-abortion. They base this on the writings of patriarchal misogynists like Paul and Augustine who relied on their interpretations of early Iron Age Hebrew priests in exile in Babylon wrote about what god wanted.

  14. cubist says

    Right now, I’m wondering how long this shit can continue, and how bad it can get, before somebody… perhaps even more than one somebody… decides “fuck this noise”, and starts to just fucking kill these meddlesome, life-threatening godbots. No, I don’t think that murder would be a good response; I’m just saying that with the sheer, raw level of outrage these godbots are inspiring in large numbers of people, it’s statistically likely that sooner or later, someone is going reach a breaking point. And once that happens, if it happens…

  15. R Johnston says

    Arrest every last doctor, administrator, and cleric involved and charge them with conspiracy to commit aggravated assault. That’s what it’s called when you treat a patient in a manner designed to cause extreme bodily harm after deliberately invalidating consent by withholding necessary information.

    Every last one of them.

  16. freemage says

    My personal preference would be for every celibate dude in a dress who has decided to intervene in a woman’s treatment by forbidding procedures that are scientifically sound should be immediately charged with practicing medicine without a license.

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