CATHOLIC HOSPITALS: Reproductive Services Dropped After Purchase
When Catholic organizations purchase hospitals or merge existing hospitals with other institutions, services including tubal ligations, birth control and abortion often are discontinued. Such has been the case with Catholic Healthcare West's purchase of the former South Valley Hospital in Gilroy, CA, the Los Angeles Times reports. Catholic Healthcare West is now the largest California hospital owner. Representatives insist that "they have every right to follow the tenets of the faith," which prohibit birth control and abortion. Thus, after Catholic Healthcare West purchased the Gilroy hospital, it announced that tubal ligation, abortion and contraception services would no longer be offered. While 18 of 46 Catholic Healthcare West hospitals in California offer some birth control measures, that has not been an option in Gilroy.
Dissent Among Practitioners
All Five OB/GYNs and three midwives who practice at the hospital wrote a letter to the editor of the Gilroy Dispatch criticizing the decision as "unconscionable, un- Christian, un-Catholic and unwise." The Santa Clara County Medical Association joined the effort, sending a letter to San Jose's bishop, arguing that the failure to provide birth control options "may force many women ... to make unhealthy choices with regard to their future reproductive life." Bishops have been the guiding factor in Catholic hospitals' decisions across the country as they have the final say in moral matters at the hospitals. They, in turn, are following the guidance of Pope John Paul II, who, for example, has said that permitting tubal ligations is "a grievous sin." Catholic Healthcare West Vice President Wade Rose admits, "It's a very difficult issue." But he added, "The church teaching is very straightforward, and trying to adapt that to everyday life is tough."
Going Without Services
Hoping to alleviate part of the problem, California Assemblywoman Sheila Kuehl (D-Santa Monica) attempted to link public funding approval for hospitals to proof that the hospital makes referrals for services it will not provide, but her effort died on the Assembly floor. Kuehl said she will try again with a "scaled- down" version of the original bill that would instruct health plans to inform their patients of restrictions at affiliated hospitals. In the meantime, Elizabeth Graddy, a University of Southern California public policy professor, said that while women with money have had few access problems, "services are not necessarily available to poor women," who might have to travel long distances or even outside the county where state health benefits would cover them. Obstetrician Taki Anagnoston, who is opposed to abortion, but has advocated tubal ligations for some of his patients, said, "Catholic Healthcare West runs a good hospital, so I don't want to bad-mouth them, but they are wrong on this issue. My solution is this: Allow it until another facility opens that can do it" (Pyle, Los Angeles Times, 1/3).