ACLU Asks that Religiously-Affiliated Hospitals Provide Required Reproductive Healthcare
The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) asked the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Service in a letter late last week "to ensure that religiously-affiliated hospitals provide emergency reproductive care as required by federal law," including emergency abortions. All hospitals receiving federal funds must provide all necessary emergency medical reproductive procedures despite religious affiliation under the Emergency Medical Treatment and Active Labor Act (EMTALA) and the Conditions of Participation of Medicare and Medicaid (COP) according to the ACLU’s letter (see PDF).
The ACLU letter details several instances where patients in life-threatening positions were denied medically necessary procedures at Catholic-affiliated hospitals. The ACLU writes, "EMTALA requires hospitals to stabilize or transfer patients who are facing an emergency; however, a hospital cannot transfer a patient until she is stable." Currently, patients can be trapped at Catholic hospitals because they are too ill to be transferred and cannot receive necessary medical care. Under COP, patients must have full access to all available medical options and may request or deny any medical procedure.
The case that initiated ACLU action occurred in Arizona at St. Joseph's
Hospital and Medical Center after Sister Margaret Mary McBride was reassigned and "automatically excommunicated" in 2009 for approving an emergency abortion for a patient who suffered from pulmonary hypertension, which limits heart and lung function and can be fatal during pregnancy. The patient would have died if she had not had an abortion. McBride was a senior administrator at St. Joseph's Hospital in Phoenix.
Daniel Pochoda, legal director of the Arizona ACLU said in a press release, "While the hospital in this case made the right decision in saving this woman's life, the subsequent treatment of the staff could have a chilling effect on the staff at hospitals across the country that may face similar situations in the future." He continued, "religiously-affiliated hospitals – which are often the only hospital in a particular area – are not exempt from providing critical care to patients who come through their doors."
Media Resources: Feminist Daily Newswire 5/18/10; ACLU Letter 7/1/10; ACLU Press Release 7/1/10
8/28/2015 Alaska Court Protects Abortion Access for Low-Income Women - The Alaska Superior Court struck down a state law yesterday that would have severely limited abortion access for low-income women in Alaska.
The state's Superior Court also struck down a Department of Health and Social Services regulation that placed narrow specifications on Medicaid coverage for abortions, requiring that Medicaid-funded abortions be determined by a physician to be "medically necessary." Last year, the Center for Reproductive Rights, the American Civil Liberties Union, and Planned Parenthood sued on behalf of the Planned Parenthood of the Great Northwest, claiming that the narrow definition of "medically necessary" arbitrarily established conditions designed to restrict the ability of low-income women to access abortion services.
The law was temporarily blocked last July by an Alaskan state court judge.
Superior Court Judge John Suddock ordered yesterday that the state be blocked from implementing this regulation, ruling that it placed an undue burden on low-income women seeking abortion services in Alaska.
"By providing health care to all poor Alaskans except women who need abortions, the challenged regulation violates the state constitutional guarantee of 'equal rights, opportunities, and protection under the law'," the ruling read.
"We applaud the superior court for striing down these cruel restrictions on women's health and rights that violate the Alaska Constitution," said Chris Charbonneau, CEO of Planned Parenthood of the Great Northwest and the Hawaiian Islands. . . .
8/26/2015 Saudi Women Prepare to Vote for the First Time - The fight for gender equality is making slow but notable progress in Saudi Arabia, where women will be allowed to vote for the first time in upcoming December elections.
This shift in Saudi law came in 2011, when a royal decree announced that women would be allowed to vote and run in local elections beginning in December of 2015. . . .