The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) filed a lawsuit against the University of Maryland Medical System Corporation (UMMS) and University of Maryland St. Joseph Medical Center (St. Joseph) for cancelling Jesse Hammons’ scheduled hysterectomy.
Hammons is a woman who believes she’s a man and was having the hysterectomy as “treatment” for gender dysphoria. The ACLU argues that UMMS and St. Joseph violated Hammons’ First and Fourteenth Amendment rights.
Bioethicist Wesley J. Smith, writing at National Review, says such suits pose a grave threat to religious freedom. He writes, “It is open season on Catholic hospitals as secularists try to coerce these institutions to violate Church doctrine in the provision of medical services.”
He points to a similar case against Mercy San Juan Medical Center, part of the Dignity Health network. The Catholic network was sued when Mercy refused to allow the removal of “healthy organs as part of a sexual-reassignment surgery.” Smith believes this is “the most important religious-freedom case pending in the country.”
St. Joseph was founded in 1864 by the Sisters of St. Francis of Philadelphia. The hospital moved to Towson, Maryland, in 1965, and was purchased by UMMS in 2012. The purchase took place with the agreement that UMMS would continue to run St. Joseph as a Catholic institution.
That means that it’s “guided by ‘Catholic health care values’ and bound by the ‘Ethical and Religious Directives for Catholic Health Care Services’ established by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (the ‘Catholic Directives’),” as the lawsuit explains.
The lawsuit says, “Plaintiff Jesse Hammons is a man who is transgender, which means that he has a male gender identity, but the sex assigned to him at birth was female.” The ACLU adds that Hammons’ “treating physicians recommended that he receive a hysterectomy as a medically necessary treatment for gender dysphoria.”
As Smith explains, St. Josephs follows Catholic teaching: “The surgery was not refused because the patient was transgender. Rather, administrators said no because it would have removed a healthy organ. Catholic moral principles only permit body parts to be removed to treat physical pathology.” (His emphasis.)
Gender dysphoria is not a physical condition, but a mental disorder which activists say should be treated by altering the body to align with a patient’s internal beliefs and desires.
Smith goes on to say: “The surgery was also refused because it would have sterilized the patient. Had a woman requested the hysterectomy as a means of ensuring she didn’t have children, she would have been refused too — and for the same reason. Ditto a man seeking a vasectomy.” (His italics.) Both sterilization and removal of healthy organs are forbidden by Catholic Directives.
The ACLU pointed to the recent Supreme Court ruling Bostock v. Clayton County as part of the justification for this lawsuit. In that recent decision, the U.S. Supreme Court redefined “sex,” in employment discrimination, to include “sexual orientation” and “gender identity.”
In this case, too, the ACLU argues that not allowing Hammons to undergo a hysterectomy is “sex discrimination.” The suit says, “Discrimination based on the fact that a person is transgender or needs to undergo gender transition is discrimination that would not occur but for the person’s sex.”
The ACLU case also challenges the recent Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) rule that says that “sex” means male or female, as determined by biology. HHS overturned the “Affordable Care Act” rule, implemented under the Obama administration in 2016, which broadened the definition of “sex discrimination” to include “termination of pregnancy and gender identity.” Gender identity was defined as “one’s internal sense of gender, which may be male, female, neither, or a combination of male and female.”
Hammons is married to Reverend Lura Groen, a minister in the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America. Groen commented on St. Joseph’s refusal to violate its religious beliefs: “Discrimination is not a part of religious liberty.” She added, “As a faith leader and taxpayer, I am appalled that this act was done at a government institution and in the name of religion.”
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