A Michigan woman is threatening legal action after a Catholic hospital refused her request to undergo a tubal ligation — a procedure that would prevent further pregnancies — after developing a dangerous brain tumor.
Jessica Mann, 33, who is due to have her third baby next month, decided to have the procedure while she was under anesthesia during the birth, after her doctor suggested that she take steps to make sure that she could not get pregnant again, the Washington Post
But her hospital, Genesys Regional Medical Center, which is Catholic, refused the request on religious grounds: Catholic mandates forbid procedures that cause sterilization, including vasectomies, and officials said she did not qualify for an exception.
“I was surprised and upset,” said Mann, who has sent a letter through the American Civil Liberties Union threatening legal action. “And there was anger at the fact that they can disregard medical issues for their religious beliefs.”
The case is the latest to spotlight the debate over religious liberties and how far people and organizations can go in denying people services that conflict with their beliefs.
Federal law provides an exemption for medical providers who do not want to provide abortion or sterilization services.
The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops has issued directives for Catholic hospitals that bar the institutions from promoting contraceptives, providing abortions, or doing procedures with no other intention but to sterilize the patient, such as a vasectomy.
Catholic hospitals don’t always closely adhere to the bishops’ guidelines, but such cases are increasing because of the proliferation of Catholic-affiliated institutions.
According to the ACLU and MergerWatch, another group scrutinizing Catholic hospitals, the number of Catholic acute-care nonprofit hospitals increased 16 percent between 2001 and 2011.
Mann was diagnosed a decade ago with two pilocytic astrocytomas, benign brain tumors that can cause blindness or paralysis, among other problems. When she became pregnant three years ago, her condition required that she deliver via Caesarean section while fully anesthetized.
When she became pregnant with her third child, a specialist recommended she undergo tubal ligation to ensure that this would be her last child.
Mann requested one in May. But early this month, her doctor informed her the hospital had said no.
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