By Mary Wisniewski
(Reuters) - The American Civil Liberties Union on Wednesday accused a Catholic hospital in Michigan of failing to provide appropriate care by refusing on religious grounds to allow a pregnant woman with a brain tumor to be sterilized.
The ACLU of Michigan filed a complaint with the state department that handles health regulations against Genesys Regional Medical Center in the Detroit suburb of Grand Blanc, which is part of Ascension Health, the country's largest Catholic health organization.
Jessica Mann's doctor had recommended that she not get pregnant again due to the strain the pregnancy would pose on her health, and recommended that she undergo tubal ligation at the time of her C-section, according to the ACLU complaint.
Genesys has refused to allow the procedure to be performed, citing religious directives that prohibit almost all tubal sterilizations, the complaint said.
Genesys has a record of granting exceptions to other women seeking the same procedure, the ACLU complaint said. Now a week before her due date, Mann, 33, is seeking a new doctor and hospital for the procedure.
"All of this could have been avoided if Catholic bishops weren't allowed to play doctor at hospitals that serve the public," Mann said in a statement quoted in an ACLU news release.
Cindy Ficorelli, spokeswoman for Genesys, said the hospital, as a Catholic healthcare system, follows "the ethical and religious directives of the Church." Beyond that, it cannot comment on Mann's case, she said.
A representative for Michigan's Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs in its Health Facilities Division was not immediately available for comment.
Allison Steinberg, a spokeswoman for the New York office of the ACLU, said the organization had filed other complaints relating to reproductive care against other Catholic hospitals, including a federal lawsuit earlier in October against Trinity Health Corp.
"We do believe this is becoming a bigger problem now that Catholic hospitals have become bigger," Steinberg said, noting that one in nine hospital beds in the U.S. are Catholic-run.
(Reporting by Mary Wisniewski; Editing by Mohammad Zargham)