Catholic Hospital Refuses Procedure for Pregnant Woman with Brain Tumor

September 23, 2015

GRAND BLANC, Mich. — A Catholic hospital in Michigan denied a pregnant woman with a life-threatening brain tumor a request to get her tubes tied at the time of her scheduled C-section next month. The refusal comes following a demand letter sent on behalf of the American Civil Liberties Union of Michigan last week and despite the hospital’s prior record of granting exceptions to other women seeking the same procedure.

Genesys Hospital replied to the ACLU demand letter, stating, “As you are aware, as a Catholic facility, Genesys follows the Ethical and Religious Directives for Catholic Health Care Facilities and based on the information we have received, Genesys will not be able to perform the procedure requested.”

In response, the ACLU today sent another letter to the hospital demanding they reconsider and make an exception no later than this Friday, September 25, or else the ACLU will proceed with filing two formal complaints, one with the Department of Civil Rights and one with the Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs, which oversees the licensing and regulation for entities in Michigan. 

"It is completely outrageous that a hospital, which should put ‘do no harm’ above all else, is putting Jessica’s life at risk because of unevenly applied Catholic directives,” said Brooke Tucker, attorney at the ACLU of Michigan. “Religion has no place in the operating room, and Jessica and all women deserve to get the care they need.”

Jessica Mann, who is 35 weeks pregnant, was denied the procedure because of religiously based rules that dictate hospital policy. Jessica’s doctor highly recommends that she has no further children 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.

“I am less than five weeks away from giving birth and should not have to be terrified that I am losing my doctor and risking my life just because of the religious beliefs of the hospital,” said Jessica Mann. “Decisions about my care should be between me and my doctor – Catholic bishops have no place in that equation.”

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 women who want a tubal ligation, performing it at the time of a C-Section is recommended practice and is the standard of care. Having a tubal after Jessica recovers from the C-section in several weeks is also 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.

Hospital response denying Jessica the procedure:https://www.aclu.org/sites/default/files/field_document/genesys_hospital_denial.pdf

ACLU letter to Genesys Hospital requesting exception be granted by Friday:https://www.aclu.org/sites/default/files/field_document/response_to_denial_letter_for_jessica_mann.pdf