Court allows doctors to support hospitals, staff in ACLU suit that seeks to force them to commit abortions

Court grants ADF motion to allow pro-life physician groups to intervene in defense of Catholic hospital network

News Release

American Center for Law and Justice

American Civil Liberties Union v. Trinity Health Corporation: Several pro-life doctor groups have intervened in defense of a Catholic hospital system which the American Civil Liberties Union sued. Alliance Defending Freedom attorneys represent the Catholic Medical Association, the Christian Medical and Dental Association, and the American Association of Pro-Life Obstetricians and Gynecologists. The ACLU’s lawsuit seeks to force Trinity Health Corporation and its staff to commit abortions regardless of their religious and pro-life objections. Trinity Health operates 86 facilities in 21 states.

Attorney sound bites:  Kevin Theriot | Matt Bowman

DETROIT – A federal court agreed Thursday to allow several pro-life doctor groups to intervene in defense of a Catholic hospital system which the American Civil Liberties Union sued last year. In December, Alliance Defending Freedom attorneys representing the Catholic Medical Association, the Christian Medical and Dental Associations, and the American Association of Pro-Life Obstetricians and Gynecologists asked the court to allow the groups to intervene.

On March 23, the court will hear arguments on whether to dismiss the ACLU’s lawsuit, which seeks to force Trinity Health and its staff to commit abortions regardless of their religious and pro-life objections. Trinity Health operates 86 facilities in 21 states.

“No American should be forced to commit an abortion,” said ADF Senior Counsel Kevin Theriot. “No law requires faith-based hospitals and medical personnel to commit abortions against their faith and conscience, and, in fact, federal law directly prohibits the government from engaging in any such coercion. In addition, the government can’t tie any funding to a requirement that hospitals and health care workers give up their constitutionally protected freedoms. We look forward to defending those freedoms in this case.”

“Those who doubt that anyone would ever try to force someone to commit an abortion need only look at this case,” explained ADF Senior Counsel Matt Bowman. “This is precisely what the ACLU is seeking to do. But forcing Catholic hospitals to perform abortions is not only against the law, it makes no sense at all. Patients should always have the freedom to choose a health care facility that respects life and to choose doctors who do not commit abortions.”

“Forcing health care workers to act contrary to the very faith and ethical convictions that led them into the medical profession—to serve, help, and bring healing to people—is counterproductive, unnecessary, and against the law,” Bowman added.

“Here, the Medical Applicants represent members that are affected by the policy directives of the Defendants’ hospitals on a daily basis,” wrote the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan, Southern Division, in its order in American Civil Liberties Union v. Trinity Health Corporation. “The outcome of the litigation could have an effect on the day-to-day aspect of their duties as healthcare professionals. Accordingly, finding that the Medical Applicants are regulated by the policy directives at issue, the Medical Applicants are able to intervene as of right.”

  • Pronunciation guide: Theriot (TAIR’-ee-oh), Bowman, (BOH’-min)

Alliance Defending Freedom is an alliance-building, non-profit legal organization that advocates for the right of people to freely live out their faith.

# # # | Ref. 53319

 

Does an Illinois bill threaten doctors’ conscience rights? Depends on whom you ask

Catholic News Agency

Matt Hadro

Springfield, Ill., May 29, 2015 / 03:13 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- An Illinois bill that some say threatens the conscience rights of medical providers is currently under consideration in the state’s general assembly.

Catholics and pro-lifers are divided among themselves over the implications of SB 1564 for the conscience rights of medical providers.

While the state’s Catholic Conference is neutral on the bill, the Christian legal group Alliance Defending Freedom states that it “would force medical facilities and physicians who conscientiously object to involvement in abortions (and other procedures) to refer for, make arrangements for someone else to perform, or arrange referral information that lists willing providers, for abortions.” . . . [Full text]

 

Illinois controversy about legislative overreach

 Catholic bishops withdraw opposition, others remain opposed

Confrontation centres on complicity

Sean Murphy*

 Introduction

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]

In Illinois, Bishops and Pro-Life Groups Differ on ACLU Conscience Bill

National Catholic Register

Peter Jesserer Smith

Both parties don’t like the pro-abortion-rights organization’s bill, but the Illinois Catholic Conference is standing neutral while local pro-life groups campaign against it in the state legislature.

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. — A battle is under way over conscience rights and health care in the Illinois Legislature that has pro-life groups on one side, the American Civil Liberties Union and Planned Parenthood on the other, and the Illinois Catholic Conference standing neutral on the sidelines.

The ACLU of Illinois has proposed a change to Illinois’ broad legal protections for the conscience rights of health-care workers with S.B. 1564, which has already passed the state senate, but whose defeat the pro-life groups are urging in the state house.

If health-care facilities or personnel decline to provide services for reasons of conscience — such as abortions or sterilizations — the bill’s protocols would require them either to make referrals for such services or to provide information about other places where they are likely to be available. [Full Text]

Morals in medicine

 Senate passes “right of conscience” bill after harrowing testimony

Illinois Times

Patrick Yeagle

Mindy Swank of Chicago grew up in a conservative household – both religiously and politically – so when her pregnancy went wrong, it was a difficult decision to have an abortion.

She and her husband, Adam, were excited to have their second child, she told an Illinois Senate legislative panel at the Capitol in March, but their doctors informed them the child likely wouldn’t survive. Having the child, they were told, could hurt Mindy’s ability to have future children and possibly endanger her life. Instead of receiving the abortion, however, Mindy endured a dangerous, weeks-long miscarriage.

Mindy told her story to the Illinois Senate Judiciary Committee on March 17, testifying about a bill that could have prevented her ordeal. The bill passed the full Senate on April 23 and awaits a vote in the House. . . [Full text]

American Civil Liberties Union: referral for abortion not good enough

Sean Murphy*

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) is suing a Washington state public hospital district, claiming that it is failing to provide medical and surgical abortions.  In fact, the hospital district provides both, but refers patients to other facilities for abortion when they cannot be provided in one of the district hospitals because of conscientious objection to the procedure by staff.  It thus appears that the ACLU is not content with forcing facilities to refer for abortion, but intends to force them to provide the procedure despite conscientious objection by physicians and health care workers.  [Reuters]

 

Will Doctors Be Forced to Kill?

First Things

Wesley J. Smith

The wailing and gnashing of teeth in some quarters over the modest Hobby Lobby decision has me worried. Apparently, many on the political port side of the country believe that once a favored public policy has been enacted, it immediately becomes a “right” that can never be altered or denied. More, once such a “right” is established for the individual, others should have the duty to ensure access – even at the cost of violating their own religious consciences.

If such thinking prevails, medical professionals could be forced to participate in the taking of human life, for example in abortion, assisted suicide, and (given the research trends in regenerative medicine) providing treatments derived from the intentional destruction of human embryos or fetuses.

That certainly seems to be the direction in which the ACLU wishes to take the country. Recently, the ACLU of Washington State began trolling for potential clients to sue medical professionals or facilities that refused to participate in certain legal procedures or transactions based on religious objection:

Have you or members of your family been denied reproductive health care or end-of-life services by a religiously based medical facility? The ACLU believes that everyone in Washington has the right to receive health care that is not restricted by the religious beliefs of others.

[Full text]

Virginia enacts protection of conscience provision for genetic counsellors

 Governor’s attempt to force referral overridden by Senate

A bill concerning the regulation of genetic counselling in Virginia has been enacted with the original protection of conscience provision intact.  Identical versions of the bill had been passed unanimously by the Virginia House and Senate, but Governor Terry McAuliffe, apparently in response to lobbying from the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and Planned Parenthood, attempted to insert a mandatory referral provision into the bill.  This was rejected by the Senate.  The law now requires an objecting counsellor to offer “to direct the patient to the online directory of licensed genetic counselors maintained by the Board.” [Family Foundation]

American Civil Liberties Union sues U.S. Catholic Bishops’ Conference

A lawsuit has been filed by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) against the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), alleging that the health care directives of the Conference were responsible for the failure of a Catholic hospital to properly treat a woman who was miscarrying a pregnancy at 18 weeks gestation.  The incident subject of the lawsuit occurred in December, 2010 in Muskegon, Michigan.  The ACLU alleges that Tamesha Means was sent home twice by Mercy Health Partners in Muskegon without appropriate medical intervention, and received treatment only when she returned a third time and actually went into labour.  The suit also names Catholic Health Ministries Chairman Stanley Urban, and former chairpersons Robert Ladenburger and Mary Mollison as defendants.  They are named as individuals because Catholic Health Ministries (CHM) has status under Catholic Canon Law as a “public juridic person”   [Health Progress, March/April 2005] but has never been incorporated under the laws of Michigan or the United States. The ACLU contends that CHM was responsible for the enforcement of the USCCB directives.

Neither the hospital nor the treating physicians are named in the suit. As a result, the claim is not for medical malpractice or medical negligence by the physicians or hospital, but for negligence by the USCCB.  However, the hospital and treating physicians would be civilly liable for their actions regardless of USCCB directives, and their competence and clinical judgment would surely be central issues in evaluating what took place. If they were not negligent, it is difficult to see how the USCCB or CHM could be held to be negligent.

The substance of the complaint was released to the media before the USCCB was served.  In a response to media enquiries, the president of the USCCB insisted that the lawsuit was “baseless” and “misguided.”  John Haas, President of the National Catholic Bioethics Center, stated that the ACLU was selectively reading the directives, and that the suit was a means to advance a partisan cause, not “to obtain redress (for Means).”

“If they were concerned about a redress of grievances for this woman and medical malpractice,” he said, the suit should have been filed in a Michigan court naming the hospital and its staff as defendants.  He also pointed out the at the directives would have permitted the induction of labour in the circumstances alleged in the complaint, and likened the suit against the USCCB as suing the American Medical Association because a physician failed to follow its guidelines. [NCR]

American Civil Liberties Union petitions against Catholic hospitals

The Washington State branch of the ACLU has prepared a petition to the state Governor to “ensure that religious ideology does not dictate the health care services a patient may choose.”  The organization asserts that patients are put “at risk” when hospitals are subject to religious guidelines. [NCR]