In 1997, Bayfront Medical Center, a public hospital operated by a private entity, entered into a joint operating agreement with a group of Catholic hospitals known as BayCare. The agreement obligated Bayfront to follow the “ethical and religious directives” for Catholic health care services, which forbid the performance of abortions and sterilizations, and disallow compliance with advance directives that conflict with Catholic teachings.
In August 2000, AU and several women’s and civil-rights groups filed suit in federal court against Bayfront, BayCare, and the City of St. Petersburg, charging that the city’s refusal to abrogate the agreement violated the Establishment Clause.
Prior to trial, in October 2000, BayCare voted to expel Bayfront from the alliance, and Bayfront publicly stated its intent to cease compliance with the Catholic Directives.
A final settlement was negotiated in 2001, obligating Bayfront to operate as a wholly secular hospital and to resume provision of the services that had been discontinued. The settlement was approved by the court in December 2001, and the defendants reimbursed the plaintiffs for costs and attorneys’ fees, thereby concluding the case.