Hospital Denies Mom With Brain Tumor a Tubal Ligation – Not Very Pro-Life to Me

pregnantThe point of doctors, hospitals, and medicine in general is to save lives -- except, apparently, when the life-saving measures required conflict with the religious beliefs of medical professionals. That's why a Catholic hospital in Michigan reportedly refused to perform a tubal ligation on Jessica Mann following the C-section delivery of her third child last year, even though her doctor warned that another pregnancy could prove dangerous because of the mom's brain tumor -- and now, the American Civil Liberties Union is calling for an investigation.


While Mann's brain tumor is benign, it could cause blindness or paralysis, and any future pregnancies would seriously jeopardize her health. So it made perfect sense for doctors to advise that Mann's tubes be tied immediately following her C-section, as waiting until later would only necessitate a second abdominal surgery.

Unfortunately, Genesys Regional Medical Center in Grand Blanc, Michigan, where Mann gave birth to her first two children -- and whose parent company, Ascension Health, is the largest Catholic health organization in the country -- does not promote birth control or allow sterilizations under any circumstances, in alignment with "Catholic Ethical and Religious Directives." Mann knew this was the hospital's policy but was told that Genesys would make some exceptions for medical reasons, so she got a letter from her doctors explaining her unique and potentially dire situation ... but, inexplicably, a brain tumor didn't qualify as an exception.

So, essentially, because this hospital is anti–birth control, it denied a woman a procedure that would both potentially save her life and prevent any pregnancies that she would most likely not be able to carry to term. What, exactly, is pro-life about that?

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Genesys none-too-helpfully suggested that Mann go to a different hospital for her tubal ligation after her C-section. Again, this would have meant having an additional abdominal surgery for basically no reason at all -- and even worse, Mann's doctor said that another surgery weeks after a C-section could be just as hazardous to her health as another pregnancy.

So Mann was left scrambling to find a hospital where she could have both procedures at the same time. And that she did, giving birth to a baby girl and having her tubes tied at the same time. But that doesn't take away from what happened.

"I was surprised and upset," Mann, a Christian, was quoted as saying in the Washington Post. "And there was anger at the fact that they can disregard medical issues for their religious beliefs."

If that's not the definition of justifiable anger, then I don't know what is. While federal law does provide an exemption for medical professionals who don't want to perform abortions or sterilizations for religious reasons, the ACLU is arguing (in a federal complaint) that this case is different -- and that the hospital's guidelines are hurting women by replacing medicine with religion. 

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The organization has asked the US Department of Health and Human Services' Office for Civil Rights to investigate Genesys Health System's sterilization policies to determine whether or not they technically violate federal health care regulations (and if they're not in violation, maybe federal health care regulations need to be investigated, too). Whether or not a Catholic hospital should be required to provide abortions -- or even birth control -- is one thing (and it is a big thing, worthy of much discussion), but this is a separate issue entirely. We're not talking about a straight-up sterilization here, we're talking about a sterilization that's going to save a woman's life. How is that not abundantly clear? 

To say a procedure like this is somehow not pro-life is basically implying that the woman's life doesn't matter. It's saying it matters less than lives that don't even exist yet, and might never exist. And what about the children Mann already has? How does a pro-family hospital justify putting the life of a mother-of-three at risk? This isn't about preserving life. This isn't about upholding family values. It's about women being undervalued and maligned. And it needs to change.


Image via Christian Glatz/Flickr

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