PATERSON, N.J. — A woman who identifies as a man has sued a Catholic hospital for declining to perform a hysterectomy on her for sex change purposes because of the institution’s religious convictions, and is requesting that the courts force the hospital to provide such services.
Jionni Conforti, 33, is suing St. Joseph’s Healthcare System, Inc. under charges of discrimination because of her preferred “sex, non-conformity with sex stereotypes, and gender identity.”
“Following the death of his mother due to complications from breast cancer in 2004, Jionni, then twenty-one years old, began to present himself in a more masculine way. He cut his hair short, threw out all of his stereotypically-female clothing, and began to dress and present as masculine,” the lawsuit states.
Conforti, who tied the knot with a woman, said she originally thought she was lesbian, but concluded that she was only transgender.
In 2014, she was diagnosed with gender dysphoria and received hormonal therapy as treatment. Later that year, Conforti obtained a double mastectomy “so that his physical appearance would reflect his gender identity.”
The following year, she sought to obtain a hysterectomy—or the removal of her uterus—“to complete full transition from female to male” and because she had been informed that the hormonal treatments she was taking have been linked to reproductive cancers.
Conforti also found a surgeon who had admitting privileges at St. Joseph’s Regional Medical Center in Paterson and was willing to perform the procedure.
But after contacting the hospital and inquiring as to whether or not it would be an issue, Conforti was soon advised that the operation could not take place at the hospital because of its Catholic identity and beliefs.
“This is to follow up to your e-mail inquiring about scheduling a total hysterectomy here at St. Joseph’s to remove all female parts based on the medical necessity for Gender Reassignment. This is to inform you that as a Catholic hospital we would not be able to allow your surgeon to schedule this surgery here at St. Joseph’s,” an email from Rooney said.
Conforti now asserts that the hospital discriminated against her because its doctors perform hysterectomies on female patients who do not identify as transgender.
“St. Joseph’s Healthcare’s refusal to allow Jionni’s hysterectomy to be performed at their facilities is particularly humiliating and degrading to Jionni because he knows SJRMC provides access to the very same laparoscopic hysterectomy procedure and related treatments to other patients who do not fail to conform to sex stereotypes and are not transgender,” her lawsuit reads.
In December 2015, she filed a complaint with the federal Office for Civil Rights, and last May, was informed that an investigation would be forthcoming. The notification came just a day before the Office issued rules that some have interpreted as requiring doctors to assist with sex change-related procedures, from hysterectomies and mastectomies to hormonal treatments, despite their religious beliefs.
As previously reported, a number of states sued the Obama administration over this rule, including Texas, Wisconsin, Kentucky, Nebraska, Arizona, Louisiana, Mississippi and Kansas, as well as the Christian Medical and Dental Association and the Roman Catholic Franciscan Alliance. Last Saturday, a federal judge in Texas placed an injunction against the regulation.
“Plaintiffs will be forced to either violate their religious beliefs or maintain their current policies which seem to be in direct conflict with the rule and risk the severe consequences of enforcement,” declared Judge Reed O’Connor.
Conforti is seeking compensatory damages as she says that the hospital’s denial has resulted in “emotional distress, humiliation, degradation, embarrassment, emotional pain and anguish, violation of dignity [and] loss of enjoyment of life.”
She is also seeking a court order forcing St. Joseph’s Healthcare System, Inc. to “provide transgender individuals, including Plaintiff, who seek gender confirmation or gender dysphoria-related health care, with medical assistance for all medically necessary care, regardless of its nature…”
“St. Joseph’s Regional Medical Center is a leading Catholic healthcare institution serving one of the most diverse and underserved populations in New Jersey. The Medical Center follows the Ethical and Religious Directives for Catholic Health Care Services in making decisions about care and treatment,” the hospital said in a statement, declining further comment.