ACLU sues U.S. bishops over policy forbidding Catholic hospitals from doing abortions

ACLU sues U.S. bishops over policy forbidding Catholic hospitals from doing abortions


DETROIT, MI, December 3, 2013 ( – On Monday, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) opened a new front in the culture wars with a lawsuit against the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops’ (USCCB) alleging that the USCCB’s directives prohibiting abortions in Catholic hospitals are equal to medical negligence.

The lawsuit focuses on the case of Tamesha Means, who in 2010 was brought to Mercy Health Partners, a Catholic-affiliated hospital in Muskegon County, Michigan after her water broke at 18 weeks.

Mercy Health Partners Hospital in Muskegon

In the lawsuit, Means claims she visited Mercy three times after her water broke, and that by the third visit she had an infection, but the hospital tried to discharge her anyway. During the discharge she began to give birth, at which point she was treated. The baby died shortly after birth.

The ACLU claims that the appropriate care in the case would have been to induce labor to avoid the chance of infection, since the baby had a slim chance of survival. But because of the USCCB’s Ethical & Religious Directives for Catholic Health Care Services, it claims, the hospital was prevented from treating Means in the proper way. Because Means’ baby was pre-term, inducing labor would have virtually ensured the death of the child.

The USCCB’s directives state that “abortion…is never permitted. Every procedure whose sole immediate effect is the termination of pregnancy before viability is an abortion…” The lawsuit is targeting the USCCB, not Mercy. It also names as defendants the current and two former chairs of the Catholic Health Ministries, which requires Mercy to abide by the Religious Directives.

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