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U.S. Bishops Deny Pregnant Women Proper Care in Catholic Hospitals

A Michigan woman has sued the U.S. Council of Catholic Bishops, charging that she nearly died because a Catholic hospital that treated her pregnancy was more concerned with church theology than medicine.

In 2010, Tamesha Means was only 18 weeks pregnant when her water broke. She drove herself to Mercy Health Hospital, the only hospital within thirty minutes of her home, but doctors sent her home. She returned the next day, bleeding and in extreme pain, but doctors again decided to send her home. While they were writing her discharge papers, Means went into labor. Means nearly lost her life giving birth, and her baby died within hours.

In the suit filed November 29, 2013, Means and the American Civil Liberties Union allege that Mercy Health doctors failed at every point to warn her of the risk of continuing her pregnancy, and that such negligence is endemic at Catholic hospitals.

In the United States, 13 percent of all community hospitals are publicly funded religious facilities. Nearly all Catholic hospitals restrict their physicians from providing any advice or treatment that might lend to life-ending medical interventions, which for the church includes abortion.

Amid all the well-publicized issues surrounding U.S. health care, this problem has been underreported. Means’s story has begun to gain some corporate news coverage, but it focuses on the lawsuit, not the bishops’ mandate and its effects. Most community hospitals are in low-income, underserved areas where pregnant residents have no choice in where they go for help, even if their condition is life-threatening.


Travis Gettys, “Catholic Hospital Sent Home Woman Enduring Dangerous, Prolonged Miscarriage, Suit Claims,” The Raw Story, December 3, 2013,

Debra Stulberg, et al., “Religious Hospitals and Primary Care Physicians: Conflicts over Policies for Patient Care,” National Center for Biotechnology Information, December 2, 2013,

“Tamesha Means v. United States Conference of Catholic Bishops,” American Civil Liberties Union, December 2, 2013,

Additional Source:

JoNel Aleccia, “Catholic Hospital’s Religious Rules Led to Negligent Care in Miscarriage, ACLU Says,” NBC New, December 2, 2013,

Student Researcher: Shafiyq Hinton (Frostburg State University)

Faculty Evaluator: Andy Duncan (Frostburg State University)

  • Siiri December 19, 2013

    I grew up Catholic. My CCD classmates and I were taught that a medical emergency in which the mother’s life is threatened by remaining pregnant is one of the few situations when aborting a pregnancy is acceptable.

  • richard kauff December 23, 2013

    I wrote to the Joint Commission asking how they could accredit Catholic Hospitals when malpractice was stated in their protocols and the answer I received suggested that a hospital with a transfer agreement with another nonreligious hospital was permitted- it was not a satisfying response.

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