Catholic Hospital in Redding Denies Two Women Tubal Ligation

Lynsie Brushett, 30, is pregnant with her second child. She wants to have a tubal ligation just after the baby is born, but Redding's Mercy Medical Center refused her request, citing religious reasons. (Courtesy Lynsie Brushett via ACLU)

Redding's Mercy Medical Center has refused -- for the second time in four months -- to allow doctors to perform sterilization on two pregnant women. The women requested the procedure be done immediately after they give birth next year. The hospital cited religious reasons.

The American Civil Liberties Union and Physicians for Reproductive Health have sent a letter to Dignity Health, which owns Mercy Medical, saying they will go to court if the issue is not resolved by Wednesday evening.

In August, another woman, Rachel Miller, was initially refused her request for tubal ligation -- commonly known as having "tubes tied" -- but the hospital relented and approved the procedure, after the ACLU threatened legal action.

Dignity Health says its general policy is not to provide sterilization unless necessary for the "cure or alleviation of a present and serious pathology."

Since Miller's case was resolved, these two additional women have requested, in consultation with their obstetrician, tubal ligation to be performed immediately after they give birth.

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One of them, 30-year-old Lynsie Brushett, is scheduled to deliver a second child in March. As the Sacramento Bee reports, her first pregnancy was difficult.

Her son was born 12 weeks prematurely, and she developed severe pre-eclampsia. She said having a second child is all she can safely afford.

“It was worth the risk, but I know my body can’t handle any more pregnancies.” she said. “We decided a tubal ligation was the best option to prevent any future unintended pregnancies, for my health and my family.”

She said Mercy Medical, about 200 miles north of San Francisco, is the only place within 70 miles of her home that delivers babies.

In its "Ethical and Religious Directives for Catholic Healthcare Services," the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops specifically prohibits sterilization, even labelling it "intrinsically evil":

"Direct sterilization of either men or women, whether permanent or temporary, is not permitted in a Catholic health care institution. Procedures that induce sterility are permitted when their direct effect is the cure or alleviation of a present and serious pathology and a simpler treatment is not available."...

"While there are many acts of varying moral gravity that can be identified as intrinsically evil, in the context of contemporary health care the most pressing concerns are currently abortion, euthanasia, assisted suicide, and direct sterilization."

Dignity Health is California's largest private health care system and owns 32 hospitals in the state. More than half are affiliated with the Catholic Church.

California law allows Catholic hospitals to refuse to perform abortions but does not allow them to deny sterilizations. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists says the procedure is safe and used by about 600,000 women in the United States a year.

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This post includes reporting from the Associated Press.

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