Catholic hospital cannot be forced to refer women for abortions - U.S. federal court rejects ACLU's lawsuit

A federal court recently rejected the American Civil Liberties Union's (ACLU) attempt to force a Michigan-based Roman Catholic hospital to refer patients for abortion in a lawsuit involving a painful miscarriage.

According to Tamesha Means, she went to the nearest hospital from her home when her bag of water broke at only 18 weeks of gestation. Even though she was suffering from excruciating pain and her unborn baby had no chance of survival, the Mercy Health Partners facility in Muskegon, Michigan told her they could not do anything more, Reuters details.

(Reuters/Stephen Lam)An anti-abortion sign is seen as demonstrators march on Market Street during the Ninth Annu504wqsal Walk for Life West Coast rally in San Francisco, California, January 26, 2013.

Based on the lawsuit filed against the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops in 2013, the Catholic facility denied her adequate treatment because it has a policy against abortion as an option. The suit also states that the hospital could have told Means that having an abortion was the safest thing to do at that time.

In June 2015, U.S. District Judge Robert Holmes Bell dismissed the case after ruling that reviewing the lawsuit would impermissibly intrude upon ecclesiastical matters." The woman appealed the ruling, but the U.S. Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals in Cincinnati rejected it, saying the court did not have jurisdiction over the accused.

"Means alleges — and we do not doubt — that she suffered physical and mental pain, emotional injuries, a riskier delivery, shock and emotional trauma from making funeral arrangements for her dead child," the court's 13-page order reads. "... But these allegations are not sufficient to state an injury under Michigan negligence law. Pain alone is not 'physical injury.'"

In a separate incident, the ACLU filed a federal lawsuit against Trinity Health Corporation for allegedly refusing to provide emergency abortion to women in cases of incomplete miscarriages. The ACLU said the Michigan-based Catholic health system refused to provide these services to at least five patients who miscarried at one of its hospitals, USA Today reported in October last year.

At that time, Trinity spokesperson Eve Pidgeon said ACLU's lawsuit has no merit because a federal court had already dismissed a similar claim. She added that they were seeking to dismiss the lawsuit on the same ground.