US hospital sued for denying patients contraception surgery
A law suit against Mercy Medical Center in Redding, California, has been launched by the American Civil Liberties Union as a result of its ‘unlawful’ refusal to provide contraception services.
The suit, according to this report, was filed this week on behalf of Physicians for Reproductive Health and a Redding woman, Rebecca Chamorro, who requested a tubal ligation at the hospital during her scheduled caesarean section in late January last year.
Chamorro and her husband, who have two other children, wanted the procedure as a permanent form of contraception.
Said Elizabeth Gill, above, senior staff attorney with the ACLU of Northern California:
The overarching issue is about women’s ability to access basic health care. It’s an incredibly common procedure used by a significant number of married women, but it’s being denied based on religious doctrine. It’s a real problem.
Chamorro is one of three Redding women who contacted the ACLU after their doctor denied a request for a post-partum tubal ligation at Mercy Medical Center.
The three women are patients of Dr Samuel Van Kirk, an obstetrician-gynecologist who practices in Redding and delivers babies at Mercy Medical Center.
He is a member of Physicians for Reproductive Health, a nationwide non-profit that advocates for access to maternal care, including contraception. It has about 1,200 physician members in California.
In the lawsuit, Van Kirk, who is one of the plaintiffs, states that 50 of his patients in the last eight years have been denied permission for post-partum tubal ligations at Mercy because of the hospital’s allegiance to Catholic doctrine.
In an emailed response, San Francisco-based Dignity Health officials declined to discuss the pending litigation, but issued a statement:
In general, it is our practice not to provide sterilization services at Dignity Health’s Catholic facilities.
This, they said, was in accordance with guidelines issued by the US Conference of Catholic Bishops, which state that Catholic health care organisations are not permitted to engage in actions that are “intrinsically immoral”, including sterilisation for men (vasectomies) or women (tubal ligations).
Dr Pratima Gupta, a Bay Area obstetrician and a spokeswoman for Physicians for Reproductive Health, said she was:
Both surprised and disappointed that [Dignity Health] would deny a woman pregnancy-related care. It demonstrates sex discrimination and provides poor quality of care.
Gupta, who said she’s performed thousands of baby deliveries and hundreds of tubal ligations, said the procedure is safe and should not be denied to women who choose it.
Health decisions should be made between a woman and her family and her doctor.
In an earlier case, Redding resident Rachel Miller also was denied permission to have a tubal ligation at Mercy Medical. After the ACLU threatened a lawsuit on her behalf in August, Mercy officials re-reviewed her case and allowed her tubal ligation to proceed.
In Miller’s case, the hospital said it changed its mind after her doctor provided additional clinical information that fit with its criteria to allow tubal ligations to protect patients from future risk of pregnancies.
A hearing is scheduled for January 5 in San Francisco Superior Court on the ACLU’s request for an emergency order allowing Chamorro to have her tubes tied.