REDDING (CBS SF) — A threat of a lawsuit has led to an about-face by a Catholic-affiliated hospital in Northern California which had refused to perform a sterilization procedure on a woman as requested by her doctor, citing religious principles.

Mercy Medical Center in Redding has now approved the tubal ligation procedure for Rachel Miller, who is due to have a caesarian sector birth in late September. Miller has decided, along with her husband, that her pregnancy is to be their last one.

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The approval came days after the American Civil Liberties Union accused the hospital, owned by Dignity Health of San Francisco, of unlawfully denying Miller reproductive health care and threatened to challenge the decision in court.

Post-partum tubal ligation following a C-section is one of the most commonly used surgical sterilization procedures for women, according to the Mayo Clinic.

According to the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, common reproductive health procedures are considered “intrinsically evil,” and “legitimate intentions on the part of the spouses do not justify recourse to morally unacceptable means (for example, direct sterilization or contraception).”

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“While we’re grateful Mercy Medical has agreed to provide medical care in this instance for Ms. Miller, the reality remains that there is a clear conflict between the best interests of patients and the directives of the Catholic hospital system,” said ACLU of Northern California attorney Elizabeth Gill in a prepared statement. “Religious institutions that provide services to the general public should not be allowed to hold religion as an excuse to discriminate or deny important health care.”

There are no other hospitals near Miller’s Redding home that have birthing and Ob/Gyn facilities that are not Catholic-affiliated. The nearest would be UC Davis Medical Center in Sacramento which is more than 160 miles away.

“This is a decision that I made with my family and my doctor and no one else should be involved in that process,” said Miller in a statement. “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.”


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Carlos E. Castañeda is Senior Editor, News & Social Media for CBS San Francisco and a San Francisco native. You can follow him on Twitter or send him an email.