A hospital in Michigan refused to perform a sterilization surgery on a pregnant woman diagnosed with a brain tumor, the American Civil Liberties Union of Michigan said Monday. The Catholic hospital denied the surgery request on religious grounds, prompting protests from the ACLU.
Jessica Mann, 33, wanted a tubal ligation done while giving birth through Caesarean section on Oct. 24 to avoid pregnancies in the future. Mann’s doctor recommended the procedure as future pregnancy would pose a health risk due to the brain tumor, ACLU said in a statement.
In May, the doctor had requested authorities at Genesys Regional Medical Center in Grand Blanc, Genesee County, for medical exception, citing Mann's condition. However, the hospital recently informed Mann, who is 34-weeks pregnant, that the request would not be granted. Mann sent a demand letter to the hospital through ACLU Friday.
“I was surprised and upset,” Mann told the Washington Post. “And there was anger at the fact that they can disregard medical issues for their religious beliefs,” she added.
In 2009, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops issued ethical and religious directives for Catholic hospitals that do not allow them to promote contraceptives, perform abortions or conduct procedures with no other intention but to sterilize the patient, such as a vasectomy.
“As a Catholic healthcare system, we follow the ethical and religious directives of the Church,” Johnny Smith, director of media relations for Ascension, America’s largest Catholic and nonprofit health system of which Genesys is a member, told RT.com. “Beyond that, we can’t comment on this patient’s particular case,” Smith added.
According to the Post, federal law provides an exemption for medical providers who do not wish to perform abortion or sterilization services. The ACLU said the guidelines replace religious principles for best medical practices and unreasonably harm women because they are focused on reproductive matters.
"Although everyone has a right to practice their religion as they see fit, religion cannot be used to harm others, which is what is happening here,” Brooke Tucker, attorney at the ACLU of Michigan, said in the statement.
“Jessica Mann and every person who goes into the hospital seeking medical care should not have to worry that religious beliefs rather than medical judgment will dictate what care they receive,” Tucker added.
At present, Mann and her family are looking for a new hospital and doctor for the surgery while the ACLU fights their case. Genesys reportedly said that Mann could deliver her baby in the hospital and undergo the sterilization at a different hospital. However, Mann said another surgery after a Caesarean could be equally threatening to her life, according to RT.com.