ASHEVILLE, N.C.(BP) — The American Civil Liberties Union is launching a renewed attack against religious hospitals, claiming they should not be allowed to base the care they provide on the dictates of their sincerely held beliefs.
In a report released in May, titled “Health Care Denied,” the ACLU targets Catholic hospitals, saying they jeopardize women’s lives because they “prohibit a range of reproductive health services,” including abortion, when something goes wrong during pregnancy.
Grazie Pozo Christie, a Miami-area radiologist and a Catholic, said claims of care being denied are false.
“When a woman’s life is in danger, any treatment that a woman needs will be provided to her, even if it endangers the child,” Christie told WORLD News Service. “So there is no point in a Catholic hospital at which a woman’s life becomes really in danger.”
The ACLU report profiles four women and several doctors disgruntled with Catholic hospitals for either refusing to induce labor during a miscarriage, until the baby’s heartbeat stopped, or for not performing tubal ligations. One woman profiled in the report blasted the hospital that refused to abort her baby when her water broke 18 weeks into her pregnancy. She eventually went into labor and the baby did not survive. One doctor recalled an abortion she performed on a woman who was shocked to find out she was pregnant, not realizing the Catholic hospital she previously used ignored her sterilization request.
Christie noted none of the cases included in the report involved doctors putting women in danger.
“They simply were not able to do certain things because of the Catholic ethic,” she said.
Catholic hospitals are bound by the Ethical and Religious Directives for Catholic Health Care Services, a rulebook issued by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. Catholic hospitals are to seek healing for the sick “in faithful imitation of Jesus Christ” and to respect the dignity of all human life.
The directives prohibit artificial fertilization, surrogate motherhood, abortion, sterilization and prenatal diagnosis aimed at aborting unborn children with physical defects.
The ACLU wants those directives declared unconstitutional.
“In America, religious freedom is a fundamental right. But it does not grant hospitals the right to force their religious beliefs on patients or discriminate by closing the door to patients,” the group said on its web site.
The report falls lockstep into what Bill Donahue, president of the Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights, calls the ACLU’s “war on Catholics over the issue of abortion.”
“The ACLU has repeatedly sued Catholic hospitals for allegedly violating the civil liberties of women, and it has repeatedly lost in the courts,” Donahue said. “It continues to lose because the First Amendment guarantees religious liberty, a fundamental expression of which is the right of Catholic entities to maintain institutional autonomy.”
According to the ACLU’s report, at least 11 states have laws protecting health institutions with policies against abortions: Delaware, California, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, Kansas, Louisiana, Missouri, New Mexico, New York and Washington.
One in six hospitals in the United States are Catholic, and the number of Catholic hospitals has grown 22 percent in the last 15 years.
Christie said she thinks that fact alone will cause the ACLU’s strategy to backfire.
“They were trying to scare the public by saying, ‘Look, a lot of the healthcare is under control of the Catholic church,'” she said. “But I think what they really brought to light is that the Catholic church contributes in a tremendous way to American healthcare. It’s there for people from conception to their natural end.”