Rachel Miller sought to have her tubes tied after a planned C-section at her nearby hospital in Redding, California. But Mercy Medical Center, a Catholic hospital, refused to allow her doctor to do the procedure.  

“I hope my case will shine a light on this issue so that others aren’t turned away. No one should be denied medical care their doctor recommends.”  

Rachel and her husband, parents to a small child, eagerly awaited the arrival of their second baby. They had always known that their family would be complete with two children, so at the recommendation of her doctor, Rachel decided that she would get her tubes tied — a safe, standard and highly effective form of contraception — after she gave birth. Her doctor fully supported this plan, as performing the procedure at the time of a C-section is the standard of care.

However, the hospital where Rachel was scheduled to give birth operates under binding “Ethical and Religious Directives” issued by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. Applying these directives, which refer to sterilization for the purpose of contraception as “intrinsically evil,” the hospital denied Rachel’s doctor’s request to perform this common procedure.

Rachel was shocked that the hospital wouldn’t allow her doctor to perform the procedure and tried to appeal, without success. Because she is herself a lawyer, Rachel then thought to seek legal support from the ACLU. After the ACLU sent a letter threatening to file a lawsuit if the hospital didn’t allow Rachel’s doctor to perform the tubal ligation, the hospital agreed to grant an exception, and Rachel was able to obtain her tubal ligation. But later that year the same hospital refused to provide the procedure to another patient, Rebecca Chamorro, so the ACLU sued the Catholic hospital system, Dignity Health.

Read more about Rachel’s story on the ACLU of Northern California blog