The ACLU recently filed a complaint with the Department of Health and Human Services alleging that Genesys Health System is in violation of Section 1557 of the Affordable Care Act. Its press release starts off with a bang: “ACLU Files Complaint Against Catholic Health System For Denying Care to Pregnant Woman with Brain Tumor.”

As a Catholic physician with an understanding of Ethical and Religious Directives for Catholic Health Care Services, these may have been applied incorrectly — as sometimes happens. Directive 47 specifies that treatments and medications that can’t be safely postponed until after birth are permitted even if they will result in the death of the unborn child.

But the complaint says that patient Jessica Mann had scheduled her C-section at a Catholic hospital and asked for a tubal ligation at the same time — to avoid a subsequent pregnancy. The hospital doesn’t perform sterilizations. Mann could deliver at the hospital but would have to find some other place and time to be sterilized, if she so wished.

The ACLU describes the situation: “Mann was forced to search for another hospital and another physician to provide the procedure she needed to protect her life, just weeks before the baby was due.”

It takes some chutzpah to draw those dots and come up with a scenario where Mann’s life was in danger, and where the hospital was responsible. For one, she has many options at her disposal to avoid another pregnancy. For another, if her heart was set on a tubal ligation as her preferred method, her area is surely well-supplied with non-Catholic providers that would be happy to accommodate her at a later time.

And the only actual damage the ACLU can allege she suffered was that she had to deliver her baby at a different hospital. No death, physical trauma or mental anguish. She called around and delivered somewhere else where they would sterilize her at the same time.

It is a wild leap for the ACLU to call this “discrimination on the basis of sex” under Obamacare’s Section 1557, which prohibits the denial of health care based on sex or gender identity. The complaint explains that it denies women a fundamental component of pregnancy/childbirth related care, and denies women, but not men, the medical standard of care and subjects women to a heightened risk of unintended pregnancy.

As for the first, tubal ligation is not a fundamental component of pregnancy and childbirth care. It’s the exact opposite, as it prevents the necessity for such care! It’s an elective procedure, even in the case of a woman for whom pregnancy could be dangerous — given the numerous alternatives. It is more convenient to perform a tubal ligation right after a delivery, but that’s all.

To accuse an entire hospital system of discrimination for a matter of convenience is absurd. A Catholic hospital does not discriminate on the basis of sex because it does not perform sterilizations on men or women.

The sad part of all this is that HHS is likely to take the ACLU’s side. After all, regulation 1557 was written by people in the Obama administration who think in lockstep with the ACLU. Alleging discrimination is just a way to get a narrow perspective on “women’s reproductive health” and gender ideology to be the law of the land — with no abstainers permitted.

The ACLU has lost several battles already in its war against Catholic hospitals. But these were all before judges. This complaint goes to HHS, a government department that has shown a breathtaking insolence when it comes to rule by fiat. The one in six Americans who depend on Catholic hospitals for care had better look out.

Dr. Grazie Pozo Christie serves on the advisory board of The Catholic Association.

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