DENVER (AP) – The American Civil Liberties Union accused a Durango hospital Wednesday of illegally telling doctors they cannot discuss abortion with a patient, even if pregnancy threatens her life.

The ACLU of Colorado asked the state Department of Public Health and Environment to stop Mercy Regional Medical Center from enforcing such a policy, arguing that the hospital was preventing doctors from fulfilling their ethical obligation to provide standard medical care and interfering with patients’ rights to make informed decisions.

The hospital said the complaint was based on inaccurate information.

Doctors and patients “are free to use all information in the medical literature to make appropriate medical decisions,” the hospital said in a written statement.

The hospital said it would follow up with the health department.

Mercy is affiliated with Catholic Health Initiatives and Adventist Health Systems. The mission statement on its website says “we strive to create healing sanctuaries that carry on the ministry of Jesus Christ.”

The ACLU said Mercy’s chief medical officer, Dr. John Boyd, told cardiologist Michael Demos and a patient that Mercy staff may not provide or recommend abortions.

A third doctor had referred the patient to Demos because she might have a condition that made her pregnancy a danger to her health, and the patient mistakenly thought Demos was recommending an abortion, the ACLU said.

Tests showed the woman did not have the condition and she later gave birth.

Boyd declined to comment beyond the hospital statement.

Demos confirmed the ACLU account.

“I think that … physicians should be allowed to practice medicine unencumbered by religious beliefs,” he told The Associated Press.

(© Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)


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