As a woman, I hope for unfettered access to the medical care that is best for me and my body.
Which is exactly why the growth of hospitals bound by religious belief is particularly harrowing.
Ascension Health—the nation’s largest and most profitable Catholic Health system—is in the process of acquiring Crittenton Hospital in Rochester, MI, which is the last independent non-profit hospital in Southeast Michigan.
The implications of having an out-of-state and religiously driven health organization take control are not entirely clear at this point in the process. But given what’s happened and is happening concerning the creeping influence of religion in medical settings, it doesn’t look good for women’s reproductive rights.
The dangers of this are not limited to access to abortion or contraception. Even when pregnancies are no longer considered viable, women are being denied the necessary standard of care in Michigan.
Consider the case of Tamesha Means, a pregnant woman from Muskegon who was refused adequate medical treatment by her hospital. Tamesha rushed to the hospital in distress and doctors quickly realized her fetus was not going to survive. However, a fetal heartbeat was still recognizable, so the hospital did not offer Tamesha the option of terminating the pregnancy and waited until she eventually miscarried at great risk to her health.
There was only one hospital in Tamesha’s county, and it was abiding by the Ethical and Religious Directives for Catholic Health Care services.
The directives have the ability to render certain medical procedures contrary to the moral teachings of the Church, forcing healthcare providers to refuse their provision in Catholic-sponsored or affiliated hospitals. Pending the Ascension Health acquisition continues to completion later this year, Crittenton Hospital would likely abide by these directives, as well.
These directives have serious implications on women’s rights—on my rights—to choose not only what I want for my body, but what is necessary to ensure my survival.
Another service at risk is the tubal ligation, also known as “getting your tubes tied,” which is the most common form of permanent birth control in the world. Ascension Health, the hospital seeking to merge with Crittenton, owns Genesys hospital in Grand Blanc, which recently instituted a ban on the procedure.
Women typically prefer undergoing tubal ligation operations shortly after receiving a Cesarean section, bypassing additional surgery or anesthesia. The Genesys hospital’s ban on the operation forces women into a six-week waiting period that places their health at unnecessary risk, making a safe and highly common form of permanent birth control inaccessible.
Emergency contraception for rape victims? Assistance for in vitro fertilization? These services violate the Directives, and may soon be prohibited at Crittenton, as well.
Given all this, my concerns over my body surge. I hope, pray, that the imposition of religious doctrine does not deprive me and other women and families ownership of it.
If you would like to provide input or express concerns about the proposed Crittenton merger, please email Staff Attorney Brooke Tucker at firstname.lastname@example.org.
By Sarah Goomar, ACLU of Michigan Fellow