Supreme Court Allows Lawsuit against Catholic Hospital over Refused Transgender Hysterectomy

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Some will recall my writing about the Dignity Health case, in which a Catholic hospital refused to provide a hysterectomy for a transgender patient. The hospital’s reasons did not target transgender patients but were in keeping with the Church’s prohibition against removing healthy organs and surgeries that sterilize patients, absent significant pathology. The refusal would have applied to any patient, not just those requesting transition surgery.

A trial court tossed the suit based on freedom of religion. But California’s higher courts blessed the lawsuit, which claims the hospital discriminated illegally against the patient based on sexual identity.

The hospital petitioned the Supreme Court for a hearing. The request has languished for more than a year, awaiting a decision. Four justices are needed to obtain a hearing but only three — Thomas, Gorsuch, and Alito — were willing to take the case. From the Reuters story:

In the California case, the hospital said it does not discriminate against transgender patients, but does not allow its facilities to be used for a certain procedures including abortion, sterilization and euthanasia, which it contends are contrary to Catholic teachings.

The hospital in 2016 had initially scheduled Minton’s hysterectomy – surgical removal of the uterus – but canceled it after learning the reason Minton wanted it, according to the lawsuit. The hospital let Minton’s physician perform the procedure at a different facility in its system a few days later.

Minton sued in state court, accusing the hospital of violating a California civil rights law that prohibits discrimination by business establishments, including hospitals, based on race, religion, sexual orientation or gender identity.

After a trial judge ruled against Minton, a California appeals court in 2019 revived the case, rejecting the hospital’s argument that forcing it to perform procedures contrary to its religious beliefs would violate its right under the U.S. Constitution’s First Amendment to the free exercise of religion.

This is a potential catastrophe for freedom of religion. Indeed, based on this and other recent religious-liberty refusals, it is obvious to me that the majority of the Court is unwilling to reverse the odious Smith case that badly hobbled free-exercise protections. The last slender thread of such protection is the now acutely threatened Religious Freedom Restoration Act.

Bottom line: If the jury returns a seven-figure verdict against Dignity Health — and this being the most woke state in the union, it well could — the verdict will declare open season on Catholic health care for trial lawyers.

In the end, these hospitals may be forced to choose between continuing to serve patients and remaining true to the precepts of the faith. And six members of the Supreme Court appear content to let it happen. That should not be the American way.

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