Hospital fights transgender discrimination claim
NEW JERSEY (BP) -- A Catholic hospital in New Jersey faces a lawsuit for allegedly refusing to remove the uterus of a woman who wants to be anatomically more like a man.
Jionni Conforti, 33, filed suit against St. Joseph's Regional Medical Center of Paterson, N.J., on Jan. 5 in federal court. Conforti, who is biologically female but identifies as male, brought suit under the Affordable Care Act (ACA) because St. Joseph's refused to remove Conforti's uterus on the grounds that doing so would violate the Catholic teaching that God made people male and female.
Conforti had the procedure done at another hospital but is suing to prevent St. Joseph's from refusing gender transition-related treatments to other transgender persons.
Catholic hospitals nationwide are facing similar pressure. In North Dakota, Catholic organizations whose members include hospitals filed suit in late December to block parts of the ACA that would force Catholic hospitals to violate church tenets.
The ACA prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has redefined "sex" to include gender identity -- the gender a person claims to be, regardless of whether it matches his or her biological sex. Whether courts agree with the HHS interpretation of the law or not, a bigger question concerns whether the law infringes on hospitals' First Amendment freedom to operate according to religious principles.
"We ask only for the freedom to serve consistent with our conscience and our Catholic faith," said Bishop John T. Folda of the Diocese of Fargo, N.D. "While we do not discriminate against individuals because of their orientation, our Catholic values will not permit us to pay for or facilitate actions that are contrary to our faith."
Catholic hospitals say they would never refuse medically necessary treatment to transgender persons, but removing healthy body parts or giving hormone injections upon request is different.
"Catholic hospitals provide compassionate care to everyone, regardless of status. Patients experiencing gender dysphoria deserve no less," said Douglas Wilson of the Catholic Benefits Association. "The prime ethic of any healthcare provider is 'do no harm.'"