Report: Growth of Catholic Hospitals Threatens Women’s Health

Screen Shot 2013-12-19 at 9.29.40 AM
Source: ACLU

Catholic hospital systems grew more than 16 percent between 2001 and 2011, a trend that threatens women’s access to care, a new report from the American Civil Liberties Union and MergerWatch claims.

The report, entitled “Miscarriage of Medicine,” says that because the Ethical and Religious Directives for Catholic Health Care Services governs care at these facilities, women’s reproductive health is at risk. The directives prohibit a range of reproductive health services, including contraception, sterilization, many infertility treatments, and abortion care, even when a woman’s health or life is in danger.

There were 381 Catholic hospitals in the United States in 2011, a 16.1 percent increase since 2001, the report found. And, as the total number of hospitals shrank, Catholic facilities composed 10.1 percent of hospitals, compared to 8.2 percent a decade earlier.

MergerWatch is a group critical of religious interference in healthcare. The report comes weeks after the ACLU filed a lawsuit against the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, which argues that the bishops’ religious directives for hospitals result in negligent care for patients. That care is spotlighted even more so in rural areas, where a religiously affiliated hospital may be the only choice for a patient.

The Catholic Health Association of the United States has not responded directly to the report, but on Dec. 9 the group did issue a statement following a New York Times editorial about Catholic hospital care.

“Catholic hospitals in the United States have a stellar history of caring for mothers and infants,” the statement read. “Hundreds of thousands of patients have received extraordinary care—both in the joy of welcoming an infant or in the pain of losing one. …There is nothing in the Ethical and Religious Directives that prevents the provision of quality clinical care for mothers and infants in obstetrical emergencies. Their experience in hundreds of Catholic hospitals over centuries is outstanding testimony to that.”

Texas is experiencing some of its own issues, too.

As the University of Texas prepares to open its new Austin medical school in 2016, questions have popped up about the agreements between the university and the Catholic healthcare provider that will train its doctors.

At the new medical school, most of the faculty and new doctors it trains will be employees of Seton Healthcare Family and required to follow the Catholic Ethical and Religious Directives the hospital system follows, including rules on birth control, abortion, and end-of-life care.

The Austin American-Statesman reports that how the objectives of both institutions will be met is under scrutiny. Americans United for Separation of Church and State sent a letter to both in July saying their agreement was unconstitutional. Ian Smith, a lawyer with the Washington-based organization, said a government entity like the university “cannot legally bind itself to those religious rules.”

“If they are teaching in a medical school, they are a government actor,” Smith said. “Restricting their behavior and their presentation under the Ethical and Religious Directives is problematic.”

UT-Southwestern, the university’s medical school in Dallas, and the UT Medical Branch at Galveston already send students to train at Seton’s Austin hospital.

Read the full ACLU/Merger Watch report below:

Growth of Catholic Hospitals 2013 by Bradford Pearson

Posted in Hospitals, News.
  • robert

    This report just proves the extent to which the ACLU has become simply a shill for the abortion industry. What a joke of a report. Not one shred of evidence that ANY womans health is jeopardized by Catholic health care! The entire premise is based on the notion that abortion and contraception are considered health care! What a distortion of truth, what Orwellian newspeak. Since when did the normal processes of the female body become unhealthy and procedures and devises to thwart the natural reproductive cycles become healthy? When did killing child in the womb become healthcare? Even in cases where a woman is threatened by a condition which is complicated her unborn child, her health care is not improved by simply killing her child, and Catholic ethics allow procedures to protect a womans life even if they may harm or even end the life of the unborn baby. Still most medical research shows actually killing the baby to save the mother is NOT in the mothers best interest. Addressing the actual health condition , which may or may not end the life of her baby, is the proper medical response. Even setting aside the morality of contraception, to call it healthcare is perverted euphemism at best. And to demand such services as a right is a pathetic travesty in personal responsibility! With Planned Parenthood and the hundreds of millions it receives from the government, there are plenty of low cost if not free contraceptive and abortion providers for women who wish them if the hospital in their area is a Catholic one. And even if it is not, no one is ever required to build a hospital to serve any area. If the government or the ACLU for that matter wants to provide abortions or contraceptive services where the Catholic hospital will not, then they are free to provide them! Catholic health care is a fruit of the Spirit. It does not exist to provide just ANY services that patients want. It exists to serve the mission of the Church! People with serious conditions who accept abortion as health care are perfectly free to be taken to the next closest hospital in the area that will provide such dis service! It is a shame that the ACLU has so lost its way that it has forgotten how to protect those with real rights, such as the right to life and right to the free exercise of ones religion. The Church could issue a report on how the ACLU is dangerous to the Constitutional rights of Americans!

  • Hospitals should take the Phoenix, AZ approach, Dump the Bishop, Move On, and serve all people well.

  • Pingback: Report: Growth of Catholic Hospitals Threatens Women’s Health – D Magazine | Health News()

  • ATFF45

    ” The directives prohibit a range of reproductive health services, including contraception, sterilization, many infertility treatments, and abortion care, even when a woman’s health or life is in danger.”

    Absolutely true and absolutely dangerous to the health and the lives of women. It is very important that no community be dependent on only Catholic health care.