The Case of St. Joseph Medical Center

Oct 12, 2021 | Blog | 0 comments

In 2020, a Catholic hospital in Maryland was sued in federal court over its refusal to perform a hysterectomy for the purposes of treating gender dysphoria.

University of Maryland St. Joseph Medical Center faced a lawsuit over its refusal to perform a hysterectomy on a transgender presenting person, with a healthy uterus.

St. Joseph Medical Center was founded by the Sisters of St. Francis of Philadelphia as a Catholic institution and operated with the implementation of Catholic teaching from its very beginning. When it was acquired by the University of Maryland Medical System it was agreed that the hospital would continue to operate under Catholic directives. St. Joseph Medical Center observes the Ethical and Religious Directives for Catholic Health Care Services put forth by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops in its treatment of all patients. According to a hospital official, the plaintiff’s hysterectomy was canceled because the removal of otherwise healthy organs violates Catholic teaching.

The Diagnostic Manual of Mental Disorders 5th Edition, or DSM-5, defines gender dysphoria as “a marked incongruence between one’s experienced/expressed gender and assigned gender” with qualifying markers specified for each age group. The plaintiff believes St. Joseph Medical Center’s refusal to perform the hysterectomy for treatment of gender dysphoria was a case of unfair treatment as the medical center performs hysterectomies for conditions other than gender dysphoria, such as uterine cancer. Forcing a Catholic hospital to perform a procedure that directly violates Church teaching, such as direct sterilization is a clear violation of the First Amendment Right to Religious Freedom.

The lawsuit, filed on July 16, 2020, asserts that the St. Joseph’s Medical Center’s cancelation of the hysterectomy violated the equal protection clause under the Fourteenth Amendment as well as the anti-discrimination provisions of the Affordable Care Act. The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), which has a long-standing history of opposing the rights of Catholic institutions, is involved in the case. The lawsuit also refers to the recent Bostock v. Clayton County Supreme Court case which holds that “gender identity” is inclusive of discrimination on the basis of “sex.” This case remains unresolved.

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