The following comes from an August 24 SF Gate article by Bob Egelko:
Facing a possible sex-discrimination lawsuit, a Catholic hospital in Redding reversed its position Monday and agreed to let a woman’s doctor sterilize her after she gives birth next month.
Mercy Medical Center, owned by Dignity Health of San Francisco, the state’s largest private health care company, had previously refused to allow Rachel Miller to undergo a tubal ligation, citing Catholic hospitals’ Ethical and Religious Directives against sterilization.
After attorneys with the American Civil Liberties Union said they would file a discrimination suit if Miller was being denied pregnancy-based care” on religious grounds, the hospital notified her doctor that it was reconsidering based on additional information the physician had provided. On Monday, the deadline the lawyers had set for a response, the ACLU said Mercy Medical Center had agreed to the surgery.
That solves Miller’s problem, said ACLU attorney Elizabeth Gill, but it won’t avoid a future legal confrontation unless the hospital chain changes its policy.
“That’s great that they are willing to do that for some women,” Gill said. But Miller, she said, “is just one of many women who risk being denied care because Catholic bishops are telling medical professionals how to operate.”
Miller said Monday that she hoped her case would “shine a light on this issue so that others aren’t turned away.”
“This is a decision that I made with my family and my doctor and no one else should be involved in that process,” Miller said in a statement released by her lawyers.
Dignity Health declined to comment Monday. But in a message sent by fax to Gill on Saturday, Rick Grossman, general counsel for the hospital chain, said the claim of sex discrimination was “baseless,” because the hospitals’ policy against sterilization applies to both men and women. The policy also prohibits abortions and reproductive-assistance technology such as in vitro fertilization.
No court ruling or other legal authority would require Mercy Medical Center to “violate the (Ethical and Religious Directives) and repudiate (the hospital’s) Catholic identity,” Grossman wrote.
But Gill said California law defines the withholding of pregnancy-related care as sex discrimination, even if the policy against sterilization also applies to men.