California court rules Catholic hospital not required to perform sterilization

[JURIST] A judge for the Superior Court of California in the County of San Francisco [official website] ruled [order, PDF] Thursday that requiring a Catholic hospital to perform a tubal ligation sterilization would violate its religious freedom. The plaintiff, Rebecca Chamorro, requested to have the procedure performed at the hospital after the birth of her third child as a preventative measure. Chamorro filed a lawsuit [complaint, PDF] after the hospital declined her physician's request to perform the sterilization.The hospital has performed the procedure before, but there is no evidence whether the prior procedures were done purely for contraceptive purposes or for other medical reasons. The judge also held that a sex discrimination claim by Chamorro was insufficient, because the medical center's serialization policy applies to men, as well as women. The plaintiff is joined by Physicians for Reproductive Health and is represented by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) [advocacy websites].

Reproductive rights are often at odds with religious freedom. In 2014 the US Supreme Court ruled that for-profit businesses that are "closely held" may be exempted [JURIST report] from the birth-control mandate of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) if the owners have a religious objection to one or more mandated birth control devices or method. In September a judge for the US District Court for the District of Columbia ruled [opinion, PDF] that employers may refuse to provide insurance coverage for contraception for moral reasons, rather than restricting the ability to refuse to those with religious objections [JURIST report]. In May the US Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit ruled [JURIST report] that the University of Notre Dame shall not, at the time being, be exempted from the federal government's birth control mandate. In April Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito issued a temporary stay [JURIST report] preventing the federal government from requiring the Roman Catholic dioceses and its affiliates in Pittsburgh and Erie, Pennsylvania, to comply with the birth control mandates of the ACA. In November 2014 the US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit ruled [JURIST report] that religious non-profit groups' rights were not violated when required to certify that they are opting out of the contraception mandate of the ACA.

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