When Melanie Jones sought medical care to treat a bleeding dislodged IUD, she didn’t expect to be turned away by her health providers.
Unbeknownst to Jones, Illinois’ Mercy Hospital and Medical Center takes their Catholic beliefs very seriously, and since using birth control is frowned upon by the Catholic Church, so is giving Jones the care she needs.
“It felt heartbreaking,” Jones told Rewire. “It felt like they were telling me that I had done something wrong, that I had made a mistake and therefore they were not going to help me; that they stigmatized me, saying that I was doing something wrong, when I’m not doing anything wrong. I’m doing something that’s well within my legal rights.”
“I think my first feeling was shock,” Jones added. “I thought that eventually they were going to recognize that my health was the top priority.”
The doctor left Jones to confer with colleagues, before returning to confirm that her “hands [were] tied,” according to two complaints filed by the ACLU of Illinois. Not only could she not help her, the doctor said, but no one in Jones’ health insurance network could remove the IUD, because all of them followed similar restrictions. Mercy, like many Catholic providers, follows directives issued by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops that restrict access to an array of services, including abortion care, tubal ligations, and contraception.
According to complaints filed by the ACLU in June, the hospital told Jones “that that process [of switching networks] would take her a month, and that she should feel fortunate because sometimes switching networks takes up to six months or even a year.”
Ask yourself… If a religious based hospital has the words saint and/or mercy in its title, will there be saints working to show you mercy?
— Kitty Black (@MsKittyKatBlk) August 28, 2016
Jones was completely unaware that her health care network was Catholic.
Jones left her doctor’s office, still in pain and bleeding. Her options were limited. She couldn’t afford a $1,000 trip to the emergency room, and an urgent care facility was out of the question since her Blue Cross Blue Shield of Illinois insurance policy would only cover treatment within her network—and she had just been told that her entire network followed Catholic restrictions.
“Generally, our protocol in caring for a woman with a dislodged or troublesome IUD is to offer to remove it,” Mercy Hospital said in a written statement.
According to Rewire, the health network is “reviewing its education process on Catholic directives for physicians and residents.”