Lorie A. Chaiten
Lorie A. Chaiten

A woman whose intrauterine device became dislodged has filed complaints against a Chicago hospital for refusing to treat her.

Melanie Jones, a Chicago woman, alleged Mercy Hospital and Medical Center broke federal and state laws by refusing to treat her after a fall caused her IUD to become partially expelled and caused pain and bleeding.

Her federal claim with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services calls for an investigation of the Catholic hospital’s practice of denying care related to birth control, as well as compensation, characterizing its denial as “disparate impact sex discrimination” that violates the Affordable Care Act.

A similar claim with the state’s Department of Human Rights alleges a civil rights violation under a section of the Illinois Human Rights Act.

“The truth is that our client was injured in quite a number of ways, but one of the main kinds of injuries here was discrimination,” said Lorie A. Chaiten, director of the Illinois ACLU’s Women’s and Reproductive Rights Project who is representing Jones.

“She was judged. She was stigmatized. She was told that, because you are a woman, we won’t give you the kind of health care you need. We filed claims that matched the type of injury she had.”

A spokesperson for Mercy Hospital could not be reached for comment today.

The claims were filed earlier this summer, but the Illinois ACLU posted Jones’ story on its website earlier this week and sent out a release in which the woman says she felt “shocked,” “stigmatized” and “singled out” by the incident.

“Hospitals and doctors’ offices should be places for healing and not judgment,” Jones said in the release.

According to her complaints, a medical episode in 2008 known as a transient ischemic attack caused her to discontinue hormonal contraception for fear of blood clots or another attack, which is similar to a stroke. She used condoms for birth control before learning about the copper IUD, which she had inserted in 2012.

But late last year, a slip and fall caused the device to become dislodged. The gynecologist at Mercy explained that the hospital’s “Catholic initiative” prohibited her from removing the device and that the rest of the providers in her network were bound by the rule.

Under her insurance plan, an emergency room visit would have cost her $1,000 on top of the $50 co-pay she had already paid for the visit to Mercy on Jan. 7. It wasn’t until Jan. 12 that she was able to switch insurance networks and meet with a new doctor who removed the IUD.

In her federal claim before the Health and Human Service Department’s Office of Civil Rights, Jones cites Section 1557 of the Affordable Care Act, which references Title IX and says, in part, no individual shall “be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under, any health program or activity” that gets federal assistance.

“Because Mercy is a recipient of Medicaid and Medicare funding, it is a ‘covered entity’ subject to the obligations of Section 1557 of the ACA,” the complaint states.

In the state claim before the Illinois Department of Human Rights, Jones relies on Section 5/5-102(A) of the Illinois Human Rights Act, which makes it a violation to “[d]eny or refuse to another the full and equal enjoyment” of places for public accommodation.

“Medically prescribed contraceptive devices, including IUDs, are used by women alone. Thus, Mercy’s categorical denial of basic health care related to these devices has a disproportionate and harmful impact on members of one sex in violation of (the law),” the complaint says.