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.

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.

This post includes reporting from the Associated Press.

Catholic Hospital in Redding Denies Two Women Tubal Ligation 7 December,2015Lisa Aliferis

  • mtnrunner2

    A business has a right to refuse service for any reason. Not news.

    • Fess12

      Actually, not.

    • trekatch

      Uhm, have you ever heard of Civil Rights?

    • Morgan Morris

      No, no they don’t. And a hospital isn’t a normal business with normal regulations. It is ILLEGAL to deny sterilization in CA where this hospital. They are breaking the law.

    • Julius Swerving

      Can you provide a valid legal citation for your claim?

    • MissTaken

      Not when you are a tax exempt not-for-profit:

      Not for profit corporation ·

      Dignity Health is a California-based not-for-profit public-benefit corporation that operates hospitals and ancillary care facilities in 17 states. As such, it is exempt from federal and state income taxes.Wikipedia

      • MisterWeenie

        Um, nobody is asking them to pay taxes , just a medical procedure that the law requires them to perform

        • JenL

          The point is that tax-exempt not-for-profits are held to different standards from, say, Microsoft.

  • Mark

    Catholicism needs to get the fuck out of healthcare.

  • Byard Pidgeon

    Now that “death with dignity” is legal in CA, we’re going to find Catholic hospitals pressuring (threatening withdrawal of hospital privileges) doctors to not prescribe lethal medications for their patients who are qualified for and requesting them under the law.


Lisa Aliferis

Lisa Aliferis is the founding editor of KQED’s State of Health blog. Since 2011, she’s been writing and editing stories for the site. Before taking up blogging, she toiled for many years (more than we can count) producing health stories for television, including Dateline NBC and San Francisco’s CBS affiliate, KPIX-TV. She also wrote up a handy guide to the Affordable Care Act, especially for Californians. Her work has been honored for many awards. Most recently she was a finalist for “Best Topical Reporting” from the Online News Association. You can follow her on Twitter: @laliferis

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