HHS Mandate, Religious Freedom

Freedom of Religion?


The ACLU is trying to pressure Catholic hospitals into providing abortions. Citing the case of a woman in Michigan, who went to a Catholic hospital when her water broke 18 weeks into her pregnancy and delivered a baby on the third visit to Mercy Health Muskegon in 2010, the ACLU is trying to get the Church to abandon its deeply-rooted teaching that abortion is never an option. Catholic healthcare is called to provide “respectful and compassionate care for both mothers and their children, both during and after pregnancy.” And abortion never enters into the picture for Catholic healthcare. The woman in the case lost the baby, as would be expected in such a situation, and the woman is fine at this time, although she unfortunately suffered throughout the three visits to the hospital. The outcome of aborting the pregnancy would have been the same, only it would have violated the Church’s teaching of the sanctity of all life from conception to natural death.

By claiming the hospital was “negligent” in this case, the ACLU is trying to force the government to take a stance against the Catholic Church and its teaching on abortion. There are hundreds of hospitals run by the Catholic Church in the United States, each providing care to thousands of people – many of whom cannot afford to go to a private hospital. The teachings of the Catholic Church are what the care for these people is based on, and the hospitals cannot be expected to violate Church teaching in the treatment of patients. People cannot expect to go to a Catholic hospital and receive a treatment, such as an abortion, which the Church opposes.

If the government gets involved, as the ACLU hopes, the situation could turn out one of two ways. In the ideal, and correct, outcome, the Constitution will be upheld and Catholic-run hospitals will be allowed to continue operating on the basis of Catholic teaching. In the other outcome, the First Amendment will be violated and Catholic hospitals will need to fight for their right to operate on Catholic teachings. The First Amendment allows for the free practice of religion in the United States. The government cannot dictate to a person or a defined religious body what they must do or cannot do. But it seems that the definition of what constitutes “religious belief” or “religious practice” is becoming less well-defined. When organizations bring lawsuits against the Catholic Church for practicing Catholic beliefs, it becomes apparent that freedom of religion may not be as free as it used to be.

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