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ACLU files suit against Catholic Bishops

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Last week the Michigan ACLU filed suit on behalf of Tamesha Means against Mercy Health Partners. The Catholic hospital is the only hospital in Muskegon, Michigan.

In December of 2010, Means was just 18 weeks pregnant when her water broke. She later miscarried. The suit against the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops is for negligence because the hospital did not offer to send her to have an abortion.

Writing in The New York Post, Seth Lipsky asks:

Is it going to be illegal in America for doctors to refuse to perform abortions? Is it going to be illegal for clergy to discourage women from having abortions? Is it going to be illegal for clergy to discourage doctors from performing abortions?

In a news release, Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops said:

It is important to note at the outset that the death of any unborn child is tragic, and we feel deeply for any mother who suffers such pain and loss. We cannot speak to the facts of the specific situation described in the complaint, which can be addressed only by those directly involved. The suit instead claims that our document titled “Ethical and Religious Directives for Catholic Health Care Services” (ERDs) encourages or requires substandard treatment of pregnant women because it does not approve the direct killing of their unborn children.

This claim is baseless. The ERDs urge respectful and compassionate care for both mothers and their children, both during and after pregnancy. Regarding abortion, the ERDs restate the universal and consistent teaching of the Catholic Church on defending the life of the unborn child—a defense that, as Pope Francis recently reminded us, “is closely linked to the defense of each and every other human right” (Evangelii Gaudium, no. 213). This same commitment to the life of each human individual has motivated Catholics to establish the nation’s largest network of nonprofit health care ministries. These ministries provide high-quality care to women and children, including those who lack health coverage and financial resources. The Church’s rejection of abortion also mirrors the Hippocratic Oath that gave rise to the very idea of medicine as a profession, a calling with its own life-affirming moral code.

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