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ACLU Demands Investigation of Hospital and Discipline for Failure to Provide Potentially Life-Saving Procedure

GRAND BLANC, Mich. — The American Civil Liberties Union of Michigan today filed a formal complaint with a state licensing agency after a Catholic hospital refused to allow a pregnant woman with a life-threatening brain tumor to get her tubes tied at the time of her scheduled C-section this month.

The complaint, filed with the Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs, which oversees the licensing and regulation for entities in Michigan, is in response to Genesys Hospital’s multiple refusals to provide Jessica Mann with a potentially life-saving tubal ligation. The hospital in Michigan cited religious directives as the reason for denial despite the hospital’s prior record of granting exceptions to other women seeking the same procedure.

“We’re taking the fight to the state agency that governs the hospital because it’s their job to make sure women like Jessica get the care they need,” said Brooke Tucker, attorney at the ACLU of Michigan. “Religious directives have no place in hospitals, especially because they end up harming the very women they should be serving.”

Jessica Mann, who is 37 weeks pregnant, was denied the procedure because of religiously based rules that dictate hospital policy. Jessica’s doctor highly recommends that she never get pregnant again due to the strain the pregnancy will pose to her health because of her brain tumor. Although her doctor requested a medical exception to the general prohibition on sterilization procedures, Jessica was just informed that the request would not be granted in spite of the hospital making the same exception for other women in a similar situation. With less than a week left before her due date, Jessica now has to gather insurance documents and referrals in order to obtain the care she needs elsewhere.

“I am very close to giving birth and instead of being excited, I’m terrified because my hospital turned me away, and I’ve had to go find a new doctor and hospital with little time to get them up speed on my complicated medical history and health risks,” said Jessica Mann. “All of this could have been avoided if Catholic bishops weren’t allowed to play doctor at hospitals that serve the public.”

Genesys Hospital is part of Ascension Health, the largest Catholic healthcare system in the country. The facility is governed by religious rules called the Ethical and Religious Directives. Written by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, the directives classify common reproductive health procedures as "intrinsically evil.”

Tubal ligation, known familiarly as “getting one’s tubes tied,” is the contraception method of choice for more than 30 percent of U.S. married women of reproductive age. An estimated 600,000 women undergo this procedure each year. For pregnant women who want a tubal ligation, performing it at the time of delivery is recommended practice and is the standard of care. Having a tubal after Jessica recovers from the C-section in several weeks is not recommended because that would also require another round of life-threatening full anesthesia and surgery.

Ten of the 25 largest hospital systems in the U.S. are Catholic-sponsored, and nearly one of nine hospital beds in the country is in a Catholic facility.

I am very close to giving birth and instead of being excited, I’m terrified because my hospital turned me away, and I’ve had to go find a new doctor and hospital with little time to get them up speed on my complicated medical history and health risks. All of this could have been avoided if Catholic bishops weren’t allowed to play doctor at hospitals that serve the public.

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