CATHOLIC HOSPITAL MERGERS: Assembly Defeats Reproductive Health Services Protection Measure
By a 10 vote margin, the California Assembly Friday defeated AB 525, a bill that would have required secular hospitals to continue to provide a broad spectrum of reproductive health services after merging with religious facilities. Assemblywoman Sheila Kuehl (D) sponsored the legislation in an attempt to ensure that patients in hospitals owned by religious groups "can get services such as birth control, abortions and fertility treatment," either onsite or through a referral, the AP/San Diego Union-Tribune reports. The bill would also have required that hospitals "prove they provided the access before the state would give them construction money or approve their mergers." Frances Kissling, president of Catholics for a Free Choice, said that the bill's defeat will result in a decline of reproductive health services in the Catholic hospital setting for poor women in particular. "I think that we have seen a significant increase in the number of hospitals in California that have through merger and acquisition indicated they would follow Catholic guidelines on reproductive health," Kissing said. The California Association of Catholic Hospitals will attempt to reach a compromise with Kuehl prior to the next legislative session, according to CACH President Bud Lee, who added that the "issue of access is best handled locally" (AP/San Diego Union-Tribune, 6/5).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.