The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) has responded to a lawsuit filed by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) which alleges that the Church’s “Ethical and Religious Directives (ERDs) encourages substandard treatment of pregnant women because it does not approve the direct killing of their unborn children.
The lawsuit was filed on behalf of Tamesha Means, a Michigan woman who was 18 weeks pregnant when her water broke and she was treated at Mercy Health Muskegon in 2010. Means made three emergency visits to the Catholic hospital and eventually delivered the baby who died less than three hours after birth. The ACLU suit claims that the hospital was negligent because it did not tell Means “that terminating her pregnancy was an option and the safest course for her condition.”
Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, called the suit “misguided” and promised to defend Catholic teaching against abortion “in season and out.”
“The ERDs urge respectful and compassionate care for both mothers and their children, both during and after pregnancy,” the Archbishop said in a statement.
“Regarding abortion, the ERDs restate the universal and consistent teaching of the Catholic Church on defending the life of the unborn child—a defense that, as Pope Francis recently reminded us, ‘is closely linked to the defense of each and every other human right’ (Evangelii Gaudium, no. 213).
“This same commitment to the life of each human individual has motivated Catholics to establish the nation’s largest network of nonprofit health care ministries. These ministries provide high-quality care to women and children, including those who lack health coverage and financial resources. The Church’s rejection of abortion also mirrors the Hippocratic Oath that gave rise to the very idea of medicine as a profession, a calling with its own life-affirming moral code.”
He goes on to state the Church’s position that all human life, both before and after birth, has inherent dignity, and that health care providers have the corresponding duty to respect the dignity of all their patients.
The ACLU lawsuit argues that it is legally “negligent” for the Catholic bishops to proclaim this core teaching and is urging the government to punish this teaching with civil liability, which is a clear violation of the First Amendment, the Archbishop said.
“A robust Catholic presence in health care helps build a society where medical providers show a fierce devotion to the life and health of each patient, including those most marginalized and in need. It witnesses against a utilitarian calculus about the relative value of different human lives. And it provides a haven for pregnant women and their unborn children regardless of their financial resources. The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops will continue to defend these principles in season and out, and we will defend ourselves against this misguided lawsuit.”
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