A woman who was denied treatment when she miscarried is suing the Catholic Bishops

A group of Catholic Bishops

In a first of its kind lawsuit, a Michigan woman is suing the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops after a Catholic hospital refused to properly treat her when she miscarried. MSNBC reports:

In what is believed to be the first lawsuit of its kind, the American Civil Liberties Union is suing the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops and a Catholic hospital in Michigan for negligence in treating a woman with dangerous pregnancy complications.

The suit is on behalf of Tamesha Means, a mother of three who was 18 weeks pregnant when her water broke. At  Mercy Health Partners (MHP), the Catholic hospital where she sought care (the only hospital within miles), no one told her her fetus had almost no chance of survival under the circumstances, or that she was at risk for serious infection if labor was not induced to terminate the pregnancy. Instead, she was sent home and told to come back a week later.

In a case reminiscent of Savita Halappanavar’s ordeal in Ireland, Means returned to the hospital three times and wasn’t treated for her serious infection until she actually started delivering the fetus (which died within hours). Unlike Halappanavar, Means survived. But the unnecessary suffering she had to go through is unconscionable. “In this case, a young woman in a crisis situation was put at risk because religious directives were allowed to interfere with her medical care,” said Kary Moss of the ACLU of Michigan. “Patients should not be forced to suffer because of a hospital’s religious affiliation.”

And Means isn’t the only one who has. The church’s directives–which require that “medical practitioners not do anything to intentionally end the life of an embryo or fetus, even when there is imminent risk to the woman carrying it”–put patients in danger all the time. According to the ACLU’s suit, over half of OB-GYNs working in Catholic-sponsored hospitals have run into conflicts with the directives. Weird. It’s almost as if the abstract principles of a bunch of old dudes with no medical background who are totally disconnected from reality don’t work in the messy actual world where doctors try to do what’s best for their patients.

Image via.

Maya DusenberyMaya Dusenbery is currently Googling the nearest non-Catholic-affiliated hospital, just in case.

St. Paul, MN

Maya Dusenbery is executive director in charge of editorial at Feministing. She is the author of the forthcoming book Doing Harm: The Truth About How Bad Medicine and Lazy Science Leave Women Dismissed, Misdiagnosed, and Sick (HarperOne, March 2018). She has been a fellow at Mother Jones magazine and a columnist at Pacific Standard magazine. Her work has appeared in publications like Cosmopolitan.com, TheAtlantic.com, Bitch Magazine, as well as the anthology The Feminist Utopia Project. Before become a full-time journalist, she worked at the National Institute for Reproductive Health. A Minnesota native, she received her B.A. from Carleton College in 2008. After living in Brooklyn, Oakland, and Atlanta, she is currently based in the Twin Cities.

Maya Dusenbery is an executive director of Feministing and author of the forthcoming book Doing Harm on sexism in medicine.

Read more about Maya

Join the Conversation