Calling the challenge “dubious,” a federal court Monday threw out a lawsuit from the American Civil Liberties Union that sought to force a Catholic hospital system to provide abortions against the church’s teachings.
The U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan, Southern Division, said the ACLU did not have standing to sue Trinity Health Corporation, which operates 86 facilities in 21 states.
Kevin Theriot, senior counsel for the Alliance Defending Freedom, which intervened in the case on Trinity’s side, said the government cannot coerce medical personnel to violate their religion by providing abortions.
“No law requires religious hospitals and medical personnel to commit abortions against their faith and conscience, and, in fact, federal law directly prohibits the government from engaging in such coercion,” Mr. Theriot said in a press release. “As we argued in our brief to the court, the ACLU had no standing to bring this suit and demand this kind of government coercion.”
ADF senior counsel Matt Bowman praised the decision, but said the case is troubling for pro-life and religious medical providers.
“Those who doubt that anyone would ever try to force someone to commit an abortion need only look at this case,” Mr. Bowman said. “This is precisely what the ACLU sought to do. The court came to the right conclusion in putting an end to their quest.”
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The ACLU represented two women in the case, one of whom said she suffered an injury when she was “denied stabilizing treatment” in the form of an abortion at one of Trinity’s hospitals, in violation of the Emergency Medical Treatment and Active Labor Act.
But Judge Gershwin A. Drain said, “considering the vagueness of the allegation,” it was “dubious” and “not sufficient to create standing.”
“Obviously, pregnancy alone is not a ‘particular condition’ that requires the termination of said pregnancy,” Judge Drain said in the dismissal. “To find the claim ripe for review on the facts pleaded before this Court would be to grant a cause of action to every pregnant woman in the state of Michigan upon the date of conception.”
ACLU staff attorney Alexa Kolbi-Molinas said the dismissal has “grave implications for the may pregnant women and their loved ones who remain at risk of being turned away by hospitals where religious leaders are playing doctor.”
“It is important to recognize that the court’s decision says nothing about whether Trinity’s policies of withholding emergency abortions is lawful,” Ms. Kolbi-Molinas said in a statement. “We are considering next steps in this case and will continue to fight for pregnant women who are denied potentially life-saving care because doctors are forced to follow religious directives rather than best medical practices.”