The Corner

Health Care

Catholic Hospital Can Be Sued for Refusing Transgender Hysterectomy

Flag at a protest against Trump administration transgender policies in New York City in 2018. (Brendan McDermid/Reuters)

I wrote the other day about the intention within bioethics to destroy Catholic healthcare. Today, a court ruling from California proves my point.

A Catholic hospital known as Dignity Health refused to perform a hysterectomy on a transgendered male, as against Catholic moral teaching. The patient sued for discrimination, but the case was dismissed on the basis that the hospital was legally following its faith principles. Alas, a Court of Appeals reversed, reinstating the case to the active docket. Why am I not surprised?

Dignity Health’s faith-based policies require that the institution “protect and preserve the bodily and functional integrity” of patients and that the “functional integrity” of the patient “may only be sacrificed to maintain the health or life of the person when no other morally permissible means is available.”

Dignity Health also forbids any sterilization procedure, as against Catholic moral teaching. Surgeries that would have that effect are permissible only to cure or alleviate “a present and serious pathology.” Obviously, the hysterectomy would render the transgendered patient sterile.

But the Court of Appeals ruled that under California law, this can constitute illegal discrimination. From Minton v. Dignity Health:

The pleading alleges that Mercy allows doctors to perform hysterectomies as treatment for other conditions but refused to allow Dr. Dawson to perform the same procedure as treatment for Minton’s gender dysphoria, a condition that is unique to transgender individuals. Denying a procedure as treatment for a condition that affects only transgender persons supports an inference that Dignity Health discriminated against Minton based on his gender identity. This is true even if the denial was pursuant to a facially neutral policy.

In other words, a Catholic hospital can potentially be held to account for refusing to violate Catholic dogma by removing a biologically healthy organ thereby, sterilizing the patient — as a “treatment” for a biologically non-pathological condition.

And get this. After three days, the hospital offered to find Minton a referral to a hospital willing to perform the surgery. That’s nice, the Court ruled. But too little, too late:

In making those alternate facilities available three days later, defendant undoubtedly substantially reduced the impact of the initial denial of access to its facilities and mitigated the damages to which Minton otherwise would have been entitled. However, the steps that were taken to rectify the denial in response to pressure from Minton and from the media did not undo the fact that the initial withholding of facilities was absolute, unqualified by an explanation that equivalent facilities would be provided at an alternative location.

This decision did not arise in a legal or social vacuum. The California Supreme Court previously made it very clear that state law gives a fig about the free exercise of religion in healthcare when it comes to allegedly discriminating against sexual minorities, leading to a surreal claim by the Court of Appeals that forcing the hospital to violate the institution’s religious principles does not actully violate its freedom of religion:

Upholding Minton’s claim does not compel Dignity Health to violate its religious principles if it can provide all persons with full and equal medical care at comparable facilities not subject to the same religious restrictions. If it cannot and to the extent there is any compulsion…the Supreme Court, applying a strict scrutiny analysis, held that any burden the Unruh Act places on the exercise of religion is justified by California’s compelling interest in ensuring full and equal access to medical treatment.

If Catholic hospitals can be required to remove healthy organs, why can’t they also be compelled to perform an abortion or assist in suicide, if a law is written declaring such refusals to be unlawful “discrimination?”

Catholic medicine is on the social justice gibbet. Hospitals, nursing homes, and other institutions may soon be forced to choose between ceasing being “Catholic” — or closing/selling hospitals to maintain religious integrity.

If hospitals shut their doors because of modern secularists’ authoritarian insistence on forcing faith-based medical facilities to violate their beliefs, will anti-religious freedom zealots fill in the gap?

Post Script: In Nova Scotia, the government is forcing a previously exempt Catholic hospital to allow euthanasia within its facilities.

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