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Chicago woman files lawsuit after provider at Catholic hospital refuses to provide appropriate care

The American Civil Liberties Union of Illinois has filed a lawsuit against a provider at a Catholic health care system on behalf of a Chicago woman who says the provider denied her appropriate care for a dislodged intrauterine device (IUD), the AP/Sacramento Bee reports (AP/Sacramento Bee, 8/23).


Catholic hospitals operate under the Ethical and Religious Directives for Catholic Health Care Services, which ban Catholic facilities from providing abortion care, sterilizations and certain other procedures.

ACLU has filed several legal challenges against Catholic hospitals that have applied the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops' religious directives when treating pregnant patients. According to a report compiled by MergerWatch and ACLU, one out of every six hospital beds in the United States is located in a Catholic-owned or affiliated facility (Women's Health Policy Report, 5/6).

Lawsuit details

In the latest lawsuit, the woman, Melanie Jones, said she went to a provider affiliated with Mercy Hospital after a fall dislodged her IUD, resulting in bleeding and discomfort (AP/Sacramento Bee, 8/23). According to Jones, the provider refused to remove the device, citing the hospital's adherence to the Catholic directives.

Jones shared part of her medical record, which read, "Counseled on partial expulsion of Paraguard. Recommended replacement of IUD, however discussed limitations of practice according to Catholic Initiatives."

According to ABC 7, Jones suffered internal lacerations before she was able to arrange the device's removal with another provider at a non-religious health care system.

Jones requested aid from ACLU of Illinois (Hope, ABC 7, 8/22). According to the AP/Bee, ACLU of Illinois submitted complaints on Jones' behalf to the Illinois Department of Human Rights and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (AP/Sacramento Bee, 8/23).


Jones said of her experience, "I felt like I was being punished for having an IUD. And that they were judging me and telling me, because you did this we are not going to help you." She added, "I believe a hospital and a doctor's office is a place for healing and not for judgment."

Separately, Lorie Chaiten, an attorney with ACLU of Illinois, said, "When we go to the doctor, we think that we're going there to get the best possible care for ourselves. We think we're there for health care, and not to have someone else's religious beliefs imposed on us."

In response to the complaint, Mercy Hospital officials said they would try to better educate providers about the directives. Mercy Hospital's Director of Missions explained that the provider who consulted with Jones failed to discuss her case with the hospital's ethical committee. According to the director, the provider would not have violated the Catholic directives in this situation had he opted to remove the IUD (ABC 7, 8/22).