A young woman has filed a discrimination lawsuit with the ACLU claiming that a doctor in a Chicago hospital refused to treat her internal bleeding due to religious reasons.
28-year old Melanie Jones told ABC7 News that after slipping in her bathroom just before New Years’ Eve in 2015, she experienced intense pain followed by days of bleeding. Jones feared that her IUD (Intrauterine Device) might have become dislodged.
Jones made an appointment to see a physician at Mercy Hospital, and after consulting with the doctor she was told that his “hands were tied” and that he could not treat her due to restrictions imposed upon him and other staff by Mercy Hospital’s administration regarding the treatment of patients with birth control devices.
“I think my first feeling was shock,” Jones said in an interview. “I thought that eventually they were going to recognize that my health was the top priority.”
“It felt heartbreaking,” Jones recalled. “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.”
Jones was also hit with another blow after discovering that no one in her health plan’s provider network could help her because they were all affiliated with the Catholic Church, which guides their policy regarding birth control.
The young woman was unable to afford the cost of visiting an out of network emergency room, so she sought the help of the ACLU, who advised her to contact her insurer and change the hospital network within her plan.
According to the ACLU, Jones was then able to have the IUD removed, but only after five long days since she visited the first doctor at Mercy hospital.
Jones said that her insurance company representative informed her that she was very lucky because such a rapid change to her plan wasn’t standard procedure.
“She told Ms. 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,” the ACLU of Illinois wrote in their complaint.
According to Jones, when she initially set up her health care plan, she had no idea that all of the providers were affiliated with the Catholic church — which the ACLU described as a problem.
“We think that people should be aware that they may face limitations on the kind of care they can receive when they go to the doctor based on religious restrictions,” explained Lorie Chaiten, director of the women’s and reproductive rights project of the ACLU of Illinois. “It’s really important that the public understand that this is going on and it is going on in a widespread fashion so that people can take whatever steps they need to do to protect themselves.”
“We don’t know what Mercy’s policies are, but I would find it hard to believe that if there were a man who was suffering complications from a vasectomy and came to the emergency room, that they would turn him away,” Chaiten added. “This the equivalent of that, right, this is a woman who had an IUD, and because they couldn’t pretend the purpose of the IUD was something other than pregnancy prevention, they told her, ‘We can’t help you.’”
Featured image via YouTube.