One thing that’s been lost in this new journalism era is the ability for critical thinking that leads to logical questions.
Now, don't get me wrong, there’s lots of critical thinking going on in coverage of the incoming GOP administration but there’s not so much regarding people who are at the opposite political pole, over on the political and cultural left.
When I read this Associated Press piece, I wondered why the reporter said relatively little about the man at the center of the article, instead of using his lawsuit as a wrap-up for other news on transgender issues. Was there no one editing this piece who couldn't send the writer back for more details? It would also help to actually talk to people who could explain details in church doctrines.
The story begins thus:
TRENTON, N.J. (AP) -- A transgender man sued a Roman Catholic hospital on Thursday, saying it cited religion in refusing to allow his surgeon to perform a hysterectomy as part of his sex transition.
Jionni Conforti's sex and gender discrimination lawsuit comes as new regulations hailed as groundbreaking anti-discrimination protections for transgender people are under legal attack from religious groups.
Conforti had scheduled the surgery at St. Joseph's Regional Medical Center in Paterson in 2015. He says a hospital administrator told him the procedure to remove his uterus couldn't be done because it was a "Catholic hospital."
"I felt completely disrespected," said Conforti, whose transition began in 2004. "That's not how any hospital should treat any person regardless of who they are."
Let’s start at the third paragraph with the scare quotes around the word “Catholic hospital.” Is there any possibility that it might not be a Catholic hospital? No? Then why the quotes?
The article goes on to list similar lawsuits in other states, including North Dakota, and includes a quote from the Catholic bishop of Fargo. Which is all well and good, but the hospital at the center of this story is located in the Diocese of Paterson, NJ.
Further on down:
Conforti, who is represented by the nonprofit Lambda Legal, said a nurse in charge of surgery confirmed the procedure could be scheduled but his doctor was told later it wouldn't be allowed because it was for gender reassignment.
An email cited in the lawsuit from the hospital's director of mission services, Father Martin Rooney, said it couldn't allow the surgery because it's a Catholic hospital.
But the hospital's patient bill of rights guarantees medical services without discrimination based on "gender identity or expression," the lawsuit said.
Conforti, of Totowa, said he felt betrayed and became depressed after the hospital's decision. Although he had the procedure performed three months later at a different hospital, he said he's suing so no one else has to go through what he did.
I did a search for how many hospitals are close to Paterson, NJ and came up with dozens. Plus, Paterson is 16 miles from New York City and even closer to Newark. We’re not talking about needing an unusual medical procedure in western Wyoming. This man is easy driving distance to plenty of quality medical care and hysterectomies are pretty common. It'd be the rare hospital that couldn't perform one.
The article didn't explain why the mere thought of going elsewhere created enough trauma to warrant a lawsuit. I had to read Lambda Legal's press release to learn that his original surgeon only had admitting privileges at St. Joseph's.
I still think suing a Catholic hospital for something they cannot do under orders from the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops is over the top, but at least that explains a bit of Conforti's reasoning. But I am puzzled by how the article worded the following:
The hospital said Thursday it follows ethical and religious directives from the U.S. Conference of Bishops in making decisions about care and treatment. The directives say procedures judged "morally wrong" by the church don't have to be performed.
The "hospital said"? The building talked? Did AP staff talk to hospital or church authorities or not?
As always, there is an interesting word missing -- "doctrines." Also, what's up with the scare quotes around the words "morally wrong"? Why not make the simple, and accurate, statement that church officials said that procedures that violate Catholic doctrines will not be performed?
After reading the lawsuit itself, I learned the hospital routinely does sterilizations which, according to Catholic doctrine, are morally wrong when done for birth control purposes.That's an interesting piece of information that should have made it into the article.
So -- what is the difference, among Catholics, between a hysterectomy for a transgender man and a typical woman? I am curious what "ethical and religious directives" the article is referring to, as I could not find any after a cursory search of the USCCB site. What are the relevant passages in the Catholic Catechism? That's often a good place to start. Of course, that would open the door to discussions of actual church doctrines.
I also saw in the lawsuit words like "betrayed," "depressed," "shocked," "confused," "anxiety,"
"anguish," "emotional pain" and "violation of his dignity" to describe the plaintiff's emotions after getting turned down by the hospital. The AP team is piling on the fighting words to stick it to a hospital that is 150 years old and was founded by an order of nuns.
The article ends with:
Conforti, 33, is seeking monetary damages and a requirement the hospital perform any needed medical care for transgender patients. He cites the problem of suicide in the transgender community.
"Anything can trigger that. Something may seem small, but to a trans person it's not," he said. "I don't want other trans people to have to go through and feel what I felt."
As I’ve written here before, a lot of plaintiffs in lawsuits against Christian bakers, wedding photographers, wedding venue owners, etc., have figured out how to milk the pain-and-suffering angle. Did the reporter ever ask the plaintiff why he chose a Catholic hospital for a procedure that a simple Google search could have revealed to be problematic?
Did the writer attempt to at least challenge Conforti about the circumstances of the case?
A lot of reporters are maintaining plenty of critical distance when it comes to reporting about the soon-to-be 45th president of the United States and that's good. Why can't they exercise that same skepticism when it comes to a plaintiff who's an ideological opposite of Donald Trump, et al?
Other articles about Conforti in the Washington Post and the New York Daily News also fail to ask the hard questions. The Federalist was one of the few outlets that asked the same question that I have. Oddly, I couldn't find anything about this in the Newark Star-Ledger.
One other oddity: The lawsuit said Conforti "married his wife" in 2013 and his Facebook profile said the date was Dec. 26 of that year. Yet, I found this announcement for a wedding this coming January 12.
Am not sure what that's all about, but it's obvious a lot more research about Conforti could have been done before going to print.