The New York Times today published a powerful editorial about a lawsuit brought by the National ACLU and the ACLU of Michigan against the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB). The ACLU represents Tamesha Means, who was denied appropriate medical care for her miscarriage at a local Catholic-sponsored hospital -- the only hospital accessible to her in Muskegon, Michigan where she resides. Means was sent home from the hospital after her water had broken at 18 weeks, despite excruciating pain and significant risk to her health, based on religious directives from the USCCB. Because of these directives, the hospital staff did not tell Means that terminating her pregnancy was an option and the safest course for her condition.
How the suit will play out is unclear, but it showcases an important issue. Catholic hospitals account for about 15 percent of the nation’s hospital beds and, in many communities, are the only hospital facilities available. Allowing religious doctrine to prevail over the need for competent emergency care and a woman’s right to complete and accurate information about her condition and treatment choices violates medical ethics and existing law.