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October 17, 2017
How an unusual lawsuit could affect a Catholic hospital's religious liberty
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.- A Catholic hospital faces an anti-discrimination lawsuit for cancelling a surgery to remove a uterus from a female who identifies as a man. The surgery was meant to treat gender dysphoria.

“This case involves whether a Catholic hospital can be compelled to perform a procedure that violates its sincerely-held religious beliefs,” Matt Sharp, legal counsel with Alliance Defending Freedom, told CNA.

“Our nation has long provided broad exemptions for organizations like this – for example, protecting them against being compelled to perform abortions,” he added. “Those same protections should extend to organizations that decline to be part of the procedures like the one sought here – procedures that not only raise religious concerns, but that many doctors and psychiatrists also believe pose serious long-term risks to the patients.”

Sharp spoke in response to the legal case of Jionni Conforti, who had scheduled a hysterectomy at St. Joseph's Regional Medical Center in Paterson, N.J. in 2015. The hospital canceled the procedure on the grounds it would violate the ethical and religious directives of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.

Conforti’s lawsuit said a surgeon at the medical center had initially approved the surgery, which removes a uterus, as had Medicaid. However, a hospital administrator later barred it.

“I felt completely disrespected,” Conforti said, according to the Associated Press.

The lawsuit said physicians claimed the hysterectomy was medically necessary to treat gender dysphoria and to reduce the risk of cancer related to Conforti’s hormone treatments.

The lawsuit charges that the hospital violated state and federal anti-discrimination laws. It also cited guarantees in the hospital’s own patient bill of rights which guaranteed medical services without discrimination based on “gender identity or expression,” the New Jersey news site The Record reports.

Sharp, however, said that subjecting Catholic hospitals and other organizations, “who merely seek to continue to peacefully operate consistent with their religious beliefs as they have done for decades, to costly lawsuits not only hurts the organizations themselves, but also the thousands and thousands of people in the community who benefit from their services every year,” he said.

“Every hospital and physician should be free to make sound moral and ethical decisions as to the best treatments for their patients,” he added. “There are serious questions about the long term results of so-called sex reassignment surgery. Whether based on their sincerely held religious beliefs or ethical considerations, hospitals and physicians should not be compelled to perform these procedures by legions of state or federal bureaucrats.”

Sharp said that state non-discrimination laws which include gender identity as a protected category “have been repeatedly used to target religious organizations and threaten them with costly fines, and even jail time, if they don’t forfeit their religious freedom and disavow their beliefs about the immutability of sex.”