Thirty-three-year-old Jessica Mann is pregnant with her third child, and expected to give birth sometime within the next few weeks. But she’s also been diagnosed with pilocytic astrocytomas, a brain tumor which can cause blindness and paralysis. A medical specialist who is overseeing her pregnancy has recommended that she have a tubal ligation to prevent further pregnancy, which doctors believe could put her life in danger.
Due to the presence of the tumor in her brain, Mann’s pregnancy is considered high-risk. She cannot deliver vaginally, and will need to be fully anesthetized during delivery by Caesarean section. While this is the safest way for her to deliver, the risk of complications during any medical procedure that requires the patient to be fully anesthetized are relatively high. In Mann’s case, the strain on her body caused by pregnancy and surgical delivery present additional risks to her health.
For these reasons, Mann’s doctors advised that she get her tubes tied, following the birth of her child. A tubal ligation is a very common surgical procedure, chosen by at least 30 percent of women to prevent unwanted pregnancy. In Mann’s case, the safest and most reasonable time to undergo that procedure is during her upcoming Caesarean section.
Until last year Genesys Hospital, located in Michigan’s Grand Blanc Township, performed tubal ligations routinely. But in 2014, the hospital banned the common medical procedure, declaring it “intrinsically evil.” At the time that they announced the policy change, hospital representatives stated that they would allow exemptions to the religious ban, in cases where the “direct effect and immediate purpose is the cure or alleviation of a present and serious pathology, and a simpler treatment is not available.”
Mann’s doctor requested an exemption, but the hospital denied the request.
“I was surprised and upset,” she told the Washington Post. “And there was anger at the fact that they can disregard medical issues for their religious beliefs.”
At 34 weeks into her pregnancy, the policies of Genesys Hospital have now forced her to try to find another healthcare facility to handle her Ceasarean section and tubal ligation. While the hospital states that she could undergo the Caesarean section at Genesys as planned, and have the tubal ligation performed elsewhere, doing so would require her to undergo two separate surgical procedures, greatly increasing the risk to her already fragile health.
The ACLU has taken up her case, sending a Demand letter to the hospital on her behalf.
Watch the video below, courtesy of acluvideos on YouTube.
Ten of the country’s 25 largest healthcare systems are now run by the Catholic church. These institutions receive public dollars, yet they often deny women the healthcare they desperately need.
Tamesha Means of Muskegon, Michigan was denied treatment by Mercy Health Partners. When she was just 18 weeks pregnant, her water broke and she went into early labor (miscarriage). The hospital provided no treatment for the woman, who was in excruciating pain. Instead they sent her home. She returned to the hospital a second time, and was again sent home without any treatment. She contracted a serious infection, which could have easily led to her death.
Means says the staff provided her with no options and never told her what was happening with her body.
“Whatever was going on with me, they discussed it amongst themselves,” Means’ said in a statement. “I was just left to wonder, what’s going to happen to me?”
More than 50 percent of obstetrician-gynecologists who work in Catholic Hospitals say that hospital religious policies have directly conflicted with their ability to provide patient care.
The American Journal of Bioethics conducted private interviews with doctors working in Catholic hospitals in 2012. Some of their stories appeared in this research publication.
Dr. P spoke about his patient in a hospital that had been sold three years before to a major Catholic health system. The conflict arose when the patient presented to the emergency room with a molar pregnancy for which the standard care is evacuation of the uterus. Molar pregnancies (or ―moles‖) consist of abnormal cells that multiply rapidly. They can lead to cancer and are therefore considered a threat to the woman’s health or life. Patients may require treatment with chemotherapy in order to stop the rapid reproduction of tissue. In rare circumstances, a woman may be pregnant with twins and have one viable fetus and one molar pregnancy. Dr. P described the case, This was a twin pregnancy. There was one healthy appearing baby and the other was a typical mole. And generally—I mean, this was diagnosed early in the pregnancy… [We
told] the patient what her risks are and she didn’t want to carry the pregnancy further but by the time she reached that decision, she was about 16 weeks gestation. And she had vaginal bleeding so of course she now goes to the hospital ‗cause she has vaginal bleeding… And then you can’t do anything while she’s there [in the Catholic hospital], you can’t help her end the pregnancy in a hospital setting that’s safer… [The ethics
Dr. P transferred the patient out for care, despite her bleeding, and despite the fact that terminating a bleeding molar pregnancy is safer in the hospital setting due to a high risk of hemorrhage.
While the case above may sound shocking, the worst part is that the hospital’s ethics committee, who made the decision not to allow the evacuation of the patient’s uterus, did so based on nothing more than internet research.
Similar ethics committees, made up of people with religious backgrounds but little or no medical training, determine the standards for patient care at Catholic hospitals all across the U.S.
When a woman chooses to seek medical care from a hospital, she should able to trust in the expertise of her doctors. Yet at these religious based institutions, her doctor’s ability to provide care may take a backseat to the googling abilities of some right wing religious fanatic. That’s a terrifying thought.
One out of nine hospital beds in the U.S. is now under the control of a Catholic Hospital. As more and more religious healthcare facilities spring up, fewer and fewer secular choices are available to women. These religious healthcare facilities refuse to provide the kind of medical procedures that were once widely available to women, tubal ligations, contraceptives and family planning services, treatment for miscarriages and the kind of life-saving care described by Dr. P., above.
As American tax dollars flow toward religious institutions like these, and away from secular, Science-based human healthcare, the quality of care available to women is on a downward spiral.
Currently, Federal law allows religious-based healthcare providers to deny all types of necessary care to women, if providing that care violates their “religious beliefs.”
Something has to change. Either we need to ban religious institutions from operating healthcare facilities in the United States or we need to ensure that those institutions are providing a standard of care that is acceptable, based entirely on medical and scientific standards. We cannot continue to allow malpractice and gross negligence to masquerade as religion.
*Featured image credit: video screen capture acluvideos on youtube