Health indignity: A Carmichael hospital denied a trans man his hysterectomy. Now he’s suing.

Dignity Health moves patient’s surgery to another hospital over Catholic directives

Dave Kempa

Two days before Evan Minton’s scheduled hysterectomy last September at Dignity Health Mercy San Juan Medical Center, a nurse called to discuss pre- and post-operation care. Toward the end of the call, Minton had a request.

“‘I just want to let you know that I’m transgender and my pronouns mean a great deal to me,'” he recalled saying.

According to Minton, the nurse was affirming. He hung up with a positive feeling. But the next day his doctor called with bad news. The hospital had canceled the procedure. He was terrified that the cancellation would add months or years to his physical transition.

Now, seven months later, the 35-year-old is teaming up with the American Civil Liberties Union to sue Dignity Health for denying care to a transgender patient. . . [Full text]


Illinois controversy about legislative overreach

 Catholic bishops withdraw opposition, others remain opposed

Confrontation centres on complicity

Sean Murphy*


Among American states, Illinois has the most comprehensive protection of conscience legislation, the Health Care Right of Conscience Act (HCRCA). In 2009 an attempt was made to nullify the Act with respect to abortion, contraception and related procedures by introducing HB 2354 (Reproductive Health and Access Act), but the bill died in committee two years later.1 Now it appears that the HRCA may be changed by Senate Bill 1564. Critics say the bill tramples upon physician freedom of conscience,2 while the bill’s supporters, like the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), claim that the bill is “about making sure no one is withholding information from the patient.”3

SB 1564 was actually drafted by the ACLU,3 but it was introduced by Illinois Senator Daniel Biss. He said that the amendments were partly in response to the case of a woman who was miscarrying over several weeks, but who was refused “diagnosis or options” in the hospital where she had sought treatment.4  Senator Bliss was apparently referring to the story of Mindy Swank, who testified before a Senate legislative panel about her experience.  The Illinois Times reported that she suffered “a dangerous, weeks-long miscarriage” because of the refusal of Catholic hospitals to provide abortions.5

Unfortunately, the Illinois Senate Judiciary Committee does not record or transcribe its hearings, and conflicting news reports make it difficult to determine exactly what happened at some critical points in her story.  Moreover, it appears that the Committee did not hear from the hospitals and physicians who were involved with Ms. Swank, so we are left with a one-sided account of what took place.6

Nonetheless, as a first step in considering the particulars of the bill and the controversy it has engendered, it is appropriate to review the evidence offered to support it.  We will begin with Mindy Swank’s testimony, even if some details are lacking, and then examine the experience of Angela Valavanis, a second case put forward by the ACLU to justify SB 1564.7  [Full Text]

Alabama House Bill 491 (2015)

Health Care Rights of Conscience Act


Relating to health care, to allow health care providers to decline to perform any health care service that violates their conscience and provide remedies for persons who exercise that right and suffer consequences as a result. [Full text]

Virginia’s compulsory vasectomy


Michael Cook

A Virginia petty criminal has been sentenced to 20 months in prison, three years supervised probation and two years unsupervised probation – and a vasectomy. Twenty-seven-year-old Jessie Lee Herald pleaded guilty to child endangerment, hit and run driving and driving on a suspended license. But it was for none of these that assistant prosecutor Ilona L. White imposed the condition of a vasectomy as part of the plea bargain.

“It was primarily due to the fact he had seven or eight children, all by different women, and we felt it might be in the commonwealth’s interest for that to be part of the plea agreement,” she explained.

He has also agreed not to reverse the vasectomy – which is difficult, in any case – as long as he is on probation.

The quirky conditions of Herald’s sentence, which went viral on the internet, provoked much commentary. It was called “temporary negative eugenics” at Jezebel and at Slate “reproductive coercion“.

Perhaps Ms. White lacks a sense of history, or she would have sensed the irony of compulsory sterilization in Virginia. In 2002, the 75th anniversary of a notorious Supreme Court decision, Buck v. Bell, Virginia Governor Mark Warner publicly apologized for the state’s past involvement in eugenics. He said, “The eugenics movement was a shameful effort in which state government never should have been involved.”

Carrie Buck was a young woman whom the commonwealth of Virginia wanted to sterilise because she came from bad stock. The case went all the way to the US Supreme Court, which ruled, in an 8-1 decision, against Ms. Buck. The majority ruling was written in 1927 by the legendary Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr., whose imperishable argument was:

It is better for all the world, if instead of waiting to execute degenerate offspring for crime, or to let them starve for their imbecility, society can prevent those who are manifestly unfit from continuing their kind. The principle that sustains compulsory vaccination is broad enough to cover cutting the Fallopian tubes. Three generations of imbeciles are enough.

After nearly a century, perhaps the commonwealth of Virginia has come full circle in its attitude toward eugenics. Except that now, two generations seem to be enough.

cclicense-some-rightsThis article is published by and under a Creative Commons licence. You may republish it or translate it free of charge with attribution for non-commercial purposes following these guidelines. If you teach at a university we ask that your department make a donation to Bioedge. Commercial media must contact us for permission and fees. Some articles on this site are published under different terms.

Doctors reluctant to give young women permanent birth control

Chicago Tribune

Julie Deardorff

When Lori Witt began pursuing a tubal ligation at age 27, she said physicians refused to even discuss it with her, telling her she was too young and might change her mind about having children.

For more than a year, Witt tried to get sterilized. Finally she went with her 28-year-old husband to a military medical clinic overseas, where Witt said he was given a vasectomy with few questions asked.

Decades after sterilization became broadly available to women in the U.S., some still have trouble obtaining one of the safest and most effective forms of birth control.

The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists says nobody who seeks sterilization should be denied. But some women say the reality can be much different, especially for younger women and those without children. . . [Full text]

Supreme Court of the Philippines

The Responsible Parenthood and Reproductive Health Act of 2012

Opinions supporting freedom of conscience


In  April, 2014, the Protection of Conscience Project’s critique of the Responsible Parenthood and Reproductive Health Act of 2012 (RH Act) was confirmed by a ruling of the Supreme Court of the Philippines. 

With respect to the issue of freedom of conscience among health care workers and institutions, of the fifteen Supreme Court judges:

  • 11 held that the mandatory referral provision in the law was an unconstitutional violation of freedom of conscience;
  •  10 of the 11 also ruled that forcing an objecting health care worker to provide “complete and correct information” about contraception was a violation of freedom of conscience
    • The eleventh judge (Del  Castillo, J.) held that a requirement to provide complete and correct information was not unconstitutional, as long as it was not used to suppress the freedom of objecting health care workers to express professional or other opinions concerning contraception.
Lucas P. Bersamin
Antonio T. Carpio
Jose Catral Mendoza
Diosdado M. Peralta
Jose Portugal Perez
Presbitero J. Velasco
Martin S. Villarama Jr.
Concurring opinions
Roberto A. Abad
Arturo D. Brion
Teresita J. Leonardo-de Castro
Concurring, dissenting in part
Mariano C.  Del Castillo (dissenting on providing information)
Estala M. Perlas-Bernabe
Marvic Mario Victor F. Leonen
Bienvenido L. Reyes
Maria Lourdes P.A. Sereno

Position of the Petitioners [P.60]
2. On Religious Accommodation and The Duty to Refer  [P.61]

Petitioners Imbong and Luat note that while the RH Law attempts to address religious sentiments by making provisions for a conscientious objector, the constitutional guarantee is nonetheless violated because the law also imposes upon the conscientious objector the duty to refer the patient seeking reproductive health services to another medical practitioner who would be able to provide for the patient’s needs. For the petitioners, this amounts to requiring the conscientious objector to cooperate with the very thing he refuses to do without violating his/her religious beliefs.190 . . . [Full text]

Alabama protection of conscience bill passes State House of Representatives

By a vote of 71-24, the Alabama House of Representatives has passed the  Health Care Right of Conscience Act in the state legislature.  The bill is intended to protect all health care providers from being compelled to participate, directly or indirectly, in abortion, human cloning, human embryonic stem cell research, and sterilization if they object to the procedures for reasons of conscience.  [Gadsden Times]

German Medical Association apologizes for physician complicty in Nazi atrocities

The German Medical Association has acknowledged and apologized for the participation of German physicians in Nazi programs of forced sterilization, euthanasia, and human experimentation.  The statement also acknowledged that “leading members of the medical community” were involved. [Washington Post]

California refuses reparation to victims of forced sterilization

The government and state politicians in California admit that the forced sterilization of about 20,000 citizens between 1909 and 1963 should not have happened.  The sterilizations were part of a state eugenics programme designed to prevent those identified as “feeble minded” or “defective” from having children.  However, they are unwilling to authorize compensation or reparation for the victims. [CNN]


Study reveals US Catholic hospitals are providing surgical sterilization

A study by Dr. Sandra S. Hapenney has revealed that almost half the Catholic hospitals surveyed in seven states performed over 20,000 surgical sterilizations and billed them as “sterilization for contraceptive management.”   The results of the study are disputed by Catholic Health Association of the United States, which, despite not having reviewed it, has stated that it contains “gross errors.”

Dr. Hapenney has demanded that the CHAUSA identify the errors. “Until they establish facts contrary to the findings of my research, they should avoid inaccurate and uniformed disparaging characterizations. Such attacks are as unjust and unwarranted as they are unworthy of the Catholic heritage these institutions represent.” [Daily Record]