ACLU Attempt to Force Catholic Hospital to Perform Abortions Hits Roadblock

A march participantholds up a pro-life sign at the March for Life in Washington, D.C. on Jan. 22, 2016. | (Photo: The Christian Post/Samuel Smith)

A district court in Michigan dismissed a lawsuit against one of the largest Catholic hospital organizations in the country that would have forced them to perform abortions.

United States District Court Judge Gershwin A. Drain of the Eastern District of Michigan granted Trinity Health Corporation's motion to dismiss a lawsuit leveled by the state chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union.

In his 13-page Monday decision, Judge Drain argued that the ACLU and the plaintiffs it represented lacked the standing to sue Trinity Health over its policy of not performing emergency abortions.

"Plaintiffs have not explained what medical conditions would place their members at risk, or if any of their members have such a condition that would place them at risk. They have only alleged that one of their members was pregnant at the time the claim was filed, and that other members will likely become pregnant in the future," wrote Drain.

"Obviously, 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."

Last October the national ACLU and its Michigan chapter filed a federal lawsuit against Trinity Health Corporation over the health system's refusal to perform emergency abortions.

ACLU of Michigan Staff Attorney Brooke A. Tucker said in a statement last year that Trinity Health was harming women through its adherence to Catholic teaching.

"We're 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," stated Tucker.

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

Last December a group of pro-life organizations represented by the Alliance Defending Freedom filed a motion to intervene on the case.

These groups included the Catholic Medical Association, Christian Medical and Dental Association, American Association of Pro-Life Obstetricians and Gynecologists, and Concerned Women for America.

"Catholic Medical, Christian Medical, and AAPLOG (the "Medical Applicants") seek to defend their members' right not to be forced to provide, assist in, or refer for abortions; against their sincere religious, conscientious, and ethical objections to this practice. CWA seeks to defend its members' right to choose a healthcare provider that does not perform abortions," read the introduction to the motion to intervene.

"Should the Court declare EMTALA or the Rehabilitation Act require healthcare providers receiving federal funds to perform abortions, the Medical Applicants' members and other federal aid recipients would be subjected to the imminent threat of being compelled to provide, assist in, or refer for abortions. CWA's members' right to choose a provider that does not perform abortions would be severely restricted."

In a statement released following news of the dismissal, ADF Senior Counsel Kevin Theriot said that no entity should be compelled by the government to perform an abortion.

"No American should be forced to commit an abortion — least of all faith-based medical workers who went into the profession to follow their faith and save lives, not take them," stated Theriot.

"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."

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