A California court has ruled that a Catholic hospital cannot be forced to perform tubal ligation sterilisation procedure on a woman as it would violate its religious freedom.
"Religious-based hospitals have an enshrined place in American history and its communities, and the religious beliefs reflected in their operation are not to be interfered with by courts at this moment in history," Superior Court of San Francisco Judge Ernest Goldsmith said.
The ruling was based on a lawsuit filed by Rebecca Chamorro, 33, who was seeking a preliminary injunction to require Mercy Medical Center in Redding, California, to perform tubal ligation on her after she delivered her third baby, according to the Associated Press.
Goldsmith said Chamorro could get the procedure from elsewhere and ruled that the hospital did not engage in sex discrimination when it denied the procedure as its policy against sterilisation on religious grounds also applies to men.
Chamorro's lawsuit was filed by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) in California. The lawsuit stated that Chamorro is scheduled to deliver by C-section at the hospital on Jan. 28.
She has two children and she and "her husband have decided that they do not want any more children after the birth of their third child."
After consulting her doctor, Dr. Dr. Samuel Van Kirk, Chamorro decided she wanted to undergo tubal ligation immediately following her C-section.
Van Kirk sought authorisation from the MMCR to perform the postpartum tubal ligation last September but it was denied by the hospital, saying it did "not meet the requirement of Mercy's sterilisation policy or the Ethical and Religious Directives for Catholic Health Services" (ERDs).
Chamorro's lawsuit is part of the growing clash over birth control and abortion health care coverage, the Associated Press said. U.S. Roman Catholic dioceses, charities and colleges have filed lawsuits over the contraceptive coverage required under the Obama administration's Affordable Care Act.
Elizabeth Gill, ACLU attorney who is representing Chamorro, said her lawsuit would continue, though Chamorro would likely have to undergo the C-section without getting a tubal ligation at the hospital, the closest delivery option.
"We disagree with the court about what California law requires. This is a real issue about women's health," Gill said.
Health care provider Dignity Health, which operates Mercy Medical and 38 other hospitals in California, Nevada and Arizona, said the tubal ligation needed by Chamorro is not medically necessary and would violate the hospital's right to freedom of religion.
"There's no law ... that would support this kind of intrusion on a Catholic hospitals observance of ethical and religious directives," Dignity Health lawyer Barry Landsberg told the judge on Thursday.
Chamorro's attorneys said Chamorro has no choice but to use Mercy Medical Center for the delivery of her child because Redding is about 200 miles north of San Francisco and the next closest hospital she could use is more than 70 miles away.