Left to the Church and its tribunals

Damn, I missed this – last month a judge dismissed Tamesha Means’s ACLU-backed lawsuit against the US Conference of Catholic Bishops.

The ACLU immediately appealed.

A federal judge in Grand Rapids has dismissed a Muskegon woman’s ACLU-backed lawsuit that claimed Catholic anti-abortion doctrine caused her to receive improper care at Muskegon’s Mercy Health Partners before she miscarried in 2010.

The ACLU immediately filed a notice of appeal to the U.S. Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals.

Catholic anti-abortion doctrine did cause her to receive improper care – she presented with a miscarriage and they told her to go home and wait. That’s not standard of care, it’s Catholic non-care.

The ACLU-drafted lawsuit contended Means “suffered severe, unnecessary, and foreseeable physical and emotional pain and suffering” because of policy directives set by the bishops and enforced at Mercy and other Catholic hospitals.

And risk, wholly unnecessary risk. Remember Savita Halappanavar? That risk.

Catholic hospitals that obey the ERD refuse to terminate miscarriages as long as the fetus still has a pulse.

The lawsuit sought damages and  a declaration that the conference’s actions were negligent, “not only to provide a remedy for the trauma she suffered, but also to prevent other women in her situation from suffering similar harm in the future,” in the words of the legal complaint.

The policies at issue are called Ethical and Religious Directives for Catholic Health Care Services. They prohibit pre-viability pregnancy termination and informing patients that deliberate termination is a medical option.

Even in the case of a pre-viability miscarriage, when the fetus is doomed no matter what. The stinking “Directives” still say the woman has to wait, even if it kills her. It did kill Savita Halappanavar, and it has killed others whose families didn’t make a stink.

On Tuesday, June 30, U.S. District Judge Robert Holmes Bell dismissed the lawsuit without a hearing on the evidence. He based his opinion on written briefs submitted by both sides.

Bell cited two basic reasons for the dismissal:

  • Michigan federal courts have no jurisdiction over the bishops’ conference for policy directives issued by the Washington, D.C.-based organization.
  • It’s improper for courts to interfere in religious doctrinal decisions, which Bell concluded was behind the anti-abortion policy directives. Considering the Muskegon woman’s negligence claim would “impermissibly intrude upon ecclesiastical matters,” the judge wrote in his opinion.

So churches can run hospitals and they can order the staff to deny life-saving treatment and there’s nothing we can do about it.

Bell noted that Means still had recourse in the courts to sue doctors or hospitals for medical malpractice if she received inadequate medical care – but not, the judge concluded, to sue a religious organization or officials for their religious doctrine.

But suing the hospitals one at a time is useless – it’s the policy and the orders that have to be stopped.

“It is not up to the Court to mandate the larger structural and policy reform to  Catholic hospitals that Plaintiff seeks; that issue is left to the Church and its tribunals,” Bell wrote.

So the Catholic church can go right ahead and keep telling doctors to kill women in their hospitals.

According to the lawsuit, Means was 18 weeks pregnant – a little more than four months — in 2010 when her water broke. She made three visits to a Mercy emergency room within a couple of days with pain and other symptoms and was not informed that pregnancy termination was an option. On the third visit, with an infection-induced fever and while about to be discharged again, she delivered a baby who died within three hours.

The ACLU lawsuit contended that Catholic doctrine incorporated in the bishops’ policy  directives prevented Means from getting appropriate care. The ACLU claims her care was negligent because the policy prevents staff from telling her “that terminating her pregnancy was an option and the safest course for her condition.”

According to the ACLU, Means was in “excruciating pain,” continuing her pregnancy posed “significant risks to her health,” and she suffered “extreme distress” and an infection that can cause infertility.

After Means filed her lawsuit, the bishop conference’s president denied that the conference’s church-based doctrines amount to negligence.

According to that statement, the Catholic Ethical and Religious Directives prohibit abortion but allow operations, treatments and medications for a pregnant woman to treat a “proportionately serious pathological condition,” even if doing so causes the unintentional death of the child.

Termination is the treatment for a miscarriage with PRM – premature rupture of the membrane. That’s the treatment, and the bishops prohibit it – so the president’s statement is lying bullshit.

Congress should do something about this, but it won’t. The Feds should do something about it, but they won’t. They’re either scared of religion or in thrall to it, or maybe both.

Oh well, it’s only women.

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