A teacher at a Catholic school in Indiana is suing the diocese where she worked after being fired because the in vitro fertilization treatments she received were considered against church teachings.
Emily Herx, a former English teacher at St. Vincent de Paul School in Fort Wayne, filed a federal lawsuit against the school and the Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend.
She says in the suit filed Friday that she was discriminated against in 2011 after the school’s pastor found out that she had begun treatments with a fertility doctor, according to the complaint.
Herx says the school’s priest called her a “grave, immoral sinner” and told her she should have kept mum about her fertility treatments because some things are “better left between the individual and God,” the complaint said.
“I didn’t think I was doing anything wrong,” Herx told CNN on Thursday. “I had never had any complaints about me as a teacher.”
In 2010, Herx learned that she suffered from a medical condition that caused infertility. At that time, she told her principal she needed time off for IVF treatment. Her request was granted and the principal allegedly told Herx: “You are in my prayers.”
Herx is claiming sex discrimination and disabilities discrimination under the Americans with Disabilities Act and requesting lost wages, punitive damages, attorney’s fees, and compensation for her mental anguish and emotional distress.
This is an important lawsuit that will determine how far a religious school can go to control the behavior of its staff.
No employer has the right to control another human being’s body like this, to take away a teacher’s wages, her job, because she was treated for a medical condition.
As a commenter to this post asked: If a male teacher at that school was found to have a wife who was having fertility treatments, would he also be fired? Conceiving a child takes a contribution from both male and female.
Just like infertility, pregnancy is also medical condition. Women have all kinds of serious health complications from ectoptic pregnancies to hemorrhaging. Contraception is preventative health care. Women’s bodies are different than men’s bodies and have different medical needs. To deny women health care based on those differences is to deny women a basic human right. It’s sex discrimination, and it is appalling that this kind of abuse is tolerated in America.
The Herx case also shows the hypocrisy of the Catholic church which claims it’s defending a “right to life.” Whose life? What about the embryos created in the IVF treatment? According to the church, don’t those embryos have a “right to life?”
Clearly, the “right to life” has little to do with supporting “life” and everything to do with controlling women’s bodies. The church is terrified to allow “grave and immoral sinners” to be in charge of their own reproduction.
Obviously, this whole issue goes to the abortion debate which should never have strayed into the ambiguous, infinitely vague, existential question: when does life begin?
The abortion debate should be centered on one issue: the rights of a human being versus the rights of an embryo/ fetus.
As long as a fetus is physically dependent on another human being, you cannot force a human being to give birth or not to give birth. A moral government cannot force abortions (as in China) or make them illegal. Reproductive rights are human rights. For a male-dominated government or organization to take away the rights of its female citizens is a crime.
Please read my follow up post: Women’s rights are not a ‘cultural’ issue.