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Health

ACLU challenges Ascension ban on tubal ligations

a hospital hallway with people at the end of it
Robin Erb
/
Bridge

The ACLU of Michigan is asking state regulators to examine a Catholic health system’s policy of not providing tubal ligations.

The ACLU filed the complaint with the Michigan Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs (LARA) against Ascension.  It’s on behalf of a pregnant woman whose doctor, affiliated with Ascension Providence Hospital in Southfield, advised her to get a tubal ligation in conjunction with a planned C-section.

But just this year, Ascension adopted a policy of not performing that procedure because of a religious directive from the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. That leaves the patient without many good options, said ACLU senior staff attorney Syeda Davidson.

My client should have the opportunity to make this decision with her doctor, not have it made for her based on a policy that's not based on medical reasoning,” Davidson said. “This is a choice that should be made by a patient, not for a patient.”

Davidson said her client, who wants to remain anonymous, is 26 weeks pregnant with her third child. Her doctor advised a tubal ligation due to the fusing of her bladder and uterus, which was discovered during the delivery of her second child.

“We hope that LARA will look at the policy and prevent Ascension from implementing it, such that it takes medical choices away from people based on non-medical reasoning,” Davidson said.

“Ascension's ban on tubal ligations is not based on medical reasoning,” the patient said in a statement released by the ACLU. “It is discriminatory and hypocritical and infringes on my medical rights and the medical rights of others.” 
 
"This policy is preventing me from obtaining a medically appropriate procedure at the time of my C-section and leaving me with three unfavorable options: changing doctors mid-pregnancy after building almost a decade’s worth of trust and safely delivering two children, having to endure the additional risks  of a separate surgery after recovering from the trauma of a third C-section with a brand new doctor, or not having a procedure and running the risk of a future pregnancy that could put my health in jeopardy. This kind of medical decision must be made between a patient and their doctor, not as a result of a discriminatory and hypocritical religious mandate.”  

Davidson questioned why the religious directive doesn’t also include vasectomies. “If they are allowing physicians who have admitting privileges to perform vasectomies, that's blatant sex discrimination because they're enforcing the directive only with regard to people who can become pregnant,” she said.

Davidson said the ACLU is also asking Ascension to give the woman an exemption from the policy. The health system did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Editor's note: Ascension is a corporate sponsor of Michigan Radio.

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