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Jan 2016

Still Separation of Church and State…in the Operating Room

In a headline-making decision, a California judge upheld the right of Dignity Health’s Mercy Medical Center to deny a patient’s request to have tubal ligation performed. The battle is not over as the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) is planning to appeal.

On January 6, a San Francisco Superior Court Judge denied an emergency motion filed by the ACLU as part of a lawsuit against Mercy Medical Center of Redding. Mercy refused to perform  tubal ligation as requested by patient Rebecca Chamorro because  the procedure would violate Dignity Health’s religious beliefs.

“We are pleased by the court’s decision to deny the ACLU’s request, which will allow Dignity Health to continue to operate consistent with the ethical and religion directives for Catholic Health Care Services,” said Dignity Health in a press release.

However, this is not new ground. In 2013, Hoag Hospital in Newport Beach said it would no longer perform elective abortions. The decision was announced shortly after the hospital became affiliated with the St. Joseph Health System. The state attorney’s office allowed Hoag to discontinue the elective abortions in an agreement that mandated that the hospital must provide patients with information on where such services were available.

It should be noted that in both of these cases, the litigated services were elective surgeries, which means the patient had multiple options as to where they could have the procedure performed. Isn’t it refreshing to find examples where the government stays out of how recognized religious groups run their businesses?

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