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Published On: Tue, Apr 12th, 2016

Court throws out ACLU lawsuit forcing Catholic hospitals, staff to perform abortions

A federal court Monday threw out an American Civil Liberties Union lawsuit that sought to force a Catholic hospital system and its staff to commit abortions regardless of their religious and pro-life objections.

Alliance Defending Freedom attorneys represent the Catholic Medical Association, the Christian Medical and Dental Associations, and the American Association of Pro-Life Obstetricians and Gynecologists, which the court allowed on March 10 to intervene in the case in defense of Trinity Health Corporation. Trinity Health operates 86 facilities in 21 states.

Participants in the "March for life" walk along Concord Avenue in Knoxville, Tennessee,  photo Michael Stansberry via wikimedia commons

Participants in the “March for life” walk along Concord Avenue in Knoxville, Tennessee, photo Michael Stansberry via wikimedia commons

“No American should be forced to commit an abortion—least of all faith-based medical workers who went into the profession to follow their faith and save lives, not take them,” said ADF Senior Counsel Kevin Theriot. “No law requires religious hospitals and medical personnel to commit abortions against their faith and conscience, and, in fact, federal law directly prohibits the government from engaging in any such coercion. As we argued in our brief to the court, the ACLU had no standing to bring this suit and demand this kind of government coercion.”

“Those who doubt that anyone would ever try to force someone to commit an abortion need only look at this case,” explained ADF Senior Counsel Matt Bowman. “This is precisely what the ACLU sought to do. The court came to the right conclusion in putting an end to their quest. The ruling relies on important case law that our pro-life medical group clients cited showing that the ACLU’s case was based on pure speculation.”

The U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan, Southern Division, in its dismissal order in American Civil Liberties Union v. Trinity Health Corporation called the ACLU’s claims of harm from the hospital system’s pro-life position “dubious,” explaining that they haven’t satisfied the legal requirements to demonstrate such harm and therefore bring a lawsuit.

The court additionally found that, for those reasons and others, the lawsuit is not “ripe for review,” meaning that nothing has happened to warrant court action: “Obviously, pregnancy alone is not a ‘particular condition’ that requires the termination of said pregnancy. To find the claim to be ripe for review on the facts pleaded before this Court would be to grant a cause of action to every pregnant woman in the state of Michigan upon the date of conception. Accordingly, the alleged harm has not risen beyond a speculative nature and is not ripe for review.”

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