Magazine article Church & State

Catholic Hospital in Calif. Doesn't Have to Provide Sterilizations, Court Rules

Magazine article Church & State

Catholic Hospital in Calif. Doesn't Have to Provide Sterilizations, Court Rules

Article excerpt

A California judge has decided that a Catholic hospital did not engage in gender discrimination when it refused to sterilize a patient.

In a January 13 decision, Judge Ernest Goldsmith of the Superior Court of California for the County of San Francisco said Mercy Medical Center in Redding is not obligated to perform a tubal ligation for Rebecca Chamorro because its religion-based policy would apply equally to a man seeking sterilization. Additionally, Goldsmith said, Chamorro could obtain the procedure at another hospital.

Mercy Medical Center is run by Dignity Health, which operates 39 medical facilities in California, Arizona and Nevada. As a Catholic institution, Dignity claims that performing procedures such as tubal ligations at its hospitals would violate its "religious freedom."

Catholic hospitals are governed by Ethical and Religious Directives that reflect church dogma. Although the hospitals receive millions in public support through Medicare, Medicaid and other government-run programs, they refuse to provide any health services that conflict with church teaching. The hospitals won't perform abortions, provide contraceptives, offer in vitro fertilization or perform operations such as tubal ligations and vasectomies. Catholic hospitals also claim the right to ignore a patient's end-of-life directives if those wishes run afoul of church teachings.

Despite their heavy reliance on public funds, Catholic hospitals insist that they have the right to operate along religious lines.

"The jurisprudence is unequivocal: A Catholic hospital may prohibit sterilization procedures that violate the core principles of the hospital's faith," Dignity Health attorneys argued in a court filing. …

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