Federal Court: Catholic Hospitals Can Hold to Pro-Life Principles

The ACLU's lawsuit against Catholic hospital group has been thrown out.

By Dustin Siggins Published on April 11, 2016

A national Catholic health care system isn’t violating the law by refusing to conduct abortions, a federal court has ruled.

On Monday, a  U.S. District Court in Eastern Michigan rejected the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and its Michigan chapter’s argument that Trinity Health Corporation and its 86 hospitals around the nation violate federal law by not performing abortions even while accepting federal taxpayer dollars.

The Court found that “pregnancy alone is not a ‘particular condition’ that requires the termination of said pregnancy. To find the claim to be ripe for review on the facts pleaded before this Court would be to grant a cause of action to every pregnant woman in the state of Michigan upon the date of conception. Accordingly, the alleged harm has not risen beyond a speculative nature and is not ripe for review.”

Additionally, wrote the court, “In this case, Plaintiffs cannot guarantee that their pregnant member will experience complications, choose to get treated at Defendants’ hospitals, or even require hospitalization. They have plead no facts, nor brought any supplemental evidence to explain why this member in particular faces a substantial risk of having pregnancy complications. Given the events that must materialize, her risk of harm, as currently plead, cannot be characterized as “certainly impending.”

While the ACLU did not immediately respond to The Stream about the dismissal, a 2015 press release from ACLU of Michigan staff attorney Brooke Tucker declared it was “taking a stand today to fight for pregnant women who are denied potentially life-saving care because doctors are forced to follow religious directives rather than best medical practices.”

“Catholic bishops are not licensed medical professionals and have no place dictating how doctors practice medicine, especially when it violates federal law,” said Tucker.

The ACLU argued that Trinity and other Catholic hospitals violate the Emergency Medical Treatment and Active Labor Act (EMTALA). However, Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) Senior Counsel Kevin Theriot said in a statement after the Court’s decision that “no law requires religious hospitals and medical personnel to commit abortions against their faith and conscience, and, in fact, federal law directly prohibits the government from engaging in any such coercion. As we argued in our brief to the court, the ACLU had no standing to bring this suit and demand this kind of government coercion.”

ADF represented Trinity and several other pro-life organizations in the lawsuit. “Those who doubt that anyone would ever try to force someone to commit an abortion need only look at this case,” explained ADF Senior Counsel Matt Bowman. “This is precisely what the ACLU sought to do. The court came to the right conclusion in putting an end to their quest. The ruling relies on important case law that our pro-life medical group clients cited showing that the ACLU’s case was based on pure speculation.”

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  • Liz Litts


  • Sheikster

    This is a great decision, but it only punts the ball down the field by dismissing it due to a lack of standing. Unfortunately, it never addresses the actual legal merits of the case itself.

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