A Northern California Catholic hospital is under fire again for refusing to allow doctors to perform sterilizations on two pregnant women after they give birth, citing religious reasons. The two women may go to court unless Mercy Medical Center changes its mind by Wednesday, the San Francisco Chronicle reported Monday.
Mercy Medical, which is owned by Dignity Health, says its general policy is not to provide sterilization unless necessary for the “cure or alleviation of a present and serious pathology.”
The American Civil Liberties Union and the nationwide Physicians for Reproductive Health say California law doesn’t allow theology to trump patient health. The women were seeking tubal ligation, or tube-tying procedures, which is a form of birth control.
One of the pregnant women, 30-year-old Lynsie Brushett, is scheduled to give birth to a second child in March. The first time she gave birth, she spent five days hospitalized with severe pre-eclampsia, prompting the couple and their doctor to agree that she should be sterilized after the second birth. She said Mercy Medical, about 200 miles north of San Francisco, is the only place within 70 miles of her home that delivers babies.
The hospital also has denied a tubal ligation to Rebecca Chamorro, who is due to give birth in February. Ruth Dawson, a staff attorney with the ACLU, told the Associated Press that Chamorro and her doctor decided that tubal ligation would be the best birth control option for Chamorro and her husband.
Mercy Medical initially denied a tubal ligation to another Redding woman earlier this year, but relented under threat of a sex-discrimination lawsuit. The hospital allowed the operation, saying it received new information from the patient’s doctor.
Dignity Health is California’s largest private health care system and owns 32 hospitals in the state. More than half are affiliated with the Catholic Church. California law allows Catholic hospitals to refuse to perform abortions, but it does not allow them to deny sterilizations. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists says the procedure is safe and used by about 600,000 women in the United States a year.