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bullet"Sterilization is evil. It is a mutilation that frustrates the purpose of the marriage act. You can't call that health care." Roman Catholic Bishop Thomas Wenski, in the Miami Herald. 

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Religious-secular mergers:

American Hospitals affiliated with the Roman Catholic Church "are the nation's largest single group of nonprofit medical facilities, operating an estimated 621 hospitals, 367 nursing homes and 62 healthcare systems some of which manage "public" facilities." Church controlled hospitals total about 15% of all hospital beds in the U.S. "1

For the broad range of medical services, this may be a positive development. In many cities with both Roman Catholic sponsored hospitals and public or private secular hospitals, the former are often regarded as giving better quality of care. However, problems can arise because of a conflict over human sexuality. The needs and wants of some women may conflict with the church's beliefs and practices. 

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Termination of services related to human sexuality:

The National Conference of Catholic Bishops has issued a document: " Ethical and Religious Directives for Catholic Health Care Services" which specifies conditions under which Catholic hospitals are to be operated. This document forbids:

bulletThe provision of contraceptive information and devices.
bulletIssuing or providing information on emergency contraception
bulletPerforming in-vitro fertilization and other fertility treatments.
bulletPerforming pre-implantation genetic diagnosis.
bulletVoluntary tubal ligations, vasectomies and other sterilizations.
bulletDissemination of AIDS and other STD prevention information involving condoms.

These restrictions appear to be followed by most Catholic hospitals. Catholics for a Free Choice surveyed  the emergency departments of 589 hospitals in the U.S. which are affiliated with the Roman Catholic church. They studied the availability of emergency contraception (EC) -- commonly misnamed the "Morning After Pill." They found that:

bullet82% do not provide EC, even for rape victims,
bullet9% had no policy on EC,
bullet9% supply EC to some rape victims.

Of Catholic emergency departments that deny EC treatment:

bullet22% provide referrals with with phone numbers upon request,
bullet47% provide referrals but no phone numbers, and
bullet31% do not provide referrals. 2

This essay continues below.

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Sponsored link:

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Impact on communities:

Catholics for a Free Choice estimates that of 127 mergers involving church-run and secular facilities from 1990 to 1998, nearly half resulted in the immediate termination of some or all reproductive services. Some examples of the impact that mergers between religious and secular facilities are:

bulletIn Poughkeepsie, N.Y., a secular hospital ended its abortion services after it merged with St. Francis Hospital.
bulletIn West Chester County, NY, Westchester County Medical Center and a network of Neighborhood Health Centers suspended a range of obstetric procedures after merging with St. Agnes Hospital.
bulletIn Gilroy, CA, Catholic Healthcare West took over the South Valley Hospital, using money raised from government approved tax-free bonds. At the newly-named St. Louise Regional Medical Center, contraceptive services and sterilizations were immediately discontinued.
bulletIn Austin, TX, Seton Healthcare Network, a Roman Catholic organization entered into an agreement with Brackenridge Hospital, a secular facility. One part of the contract allowed the County Health & Human Services Department to offer birth control information, counseling and other services within the hospital. The Vatican allegedly instructed the local Bishop, John McCarthy, to break the contract, and terminate all contraception programs. When he refused, he was summoned to Rome.

Amy Paulin of the Westchester Coalition for Legal Abortion commented: "While hospitals perform only a small number of abortions, very often they are the only option for second trimester and other complicated procedures."

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Future trends:

AANEWS reported that Roman Catholic Bishops are considering new regulations to further " tighten control over affiliated hospitals and other health care partnerships, including those which are public facilities." These could restrict or eliminate women's access to information and procedures, even at public hospitals." A woman who has her child delivered in a 'public' hospital and then wishes to be sterilized may be surprised when she is informed that the procedure is no longer available, and is considered a 'sin' against church doctrine." 1

AANEWS reports that the following proposals are under review:

bulletCatholic run hospitals and providers would be forbidden to engage in "immediate material cooperation in wrongdoing."
bulletCatholic health organizations that manage facilities for private owners or public hospitals would have to periodically review "whether the binding agreement is being observed and implemented in a way that is consistent with Catholic teaching."
bulletAll church-connected providers would be asked to acknowledge that artificial contraception is "absolutely forbidden."
bulletAccording to the Miami Herald, some liberal bishops are proposing a resolution to allow Catholic hospital and management companies to permit some birth-control services at non-Catholic facilities. They also propose to allow local bishops to interpretation church guidelines on medical matters.

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TV Program '60 Minutes'"

On 2001-JAN-26, CBS' 60 Minutes program was titled "God, Women and Medicine." It studied hospital closures, concentrating on the withdrawal of reproductive services in hospitals taken over by the Roman Catholic church. William Donahue, president of the Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights commented: " '60 Minutes' finds it almost impossible to do a segment on the Catholic Church which isnít hyper-critical." He criticized the appearance on the show of Francis Kissling of Catholics for a Free Choice. She had said: "It's not like the old days. Doctors are no longer 'gods.' Now we have bishops who are 'gods.' "

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Related essay on this website:

bulletAccess to Emergency Contraception (EC)  and EC information at Roman Catholic hospitals in the U.S.

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The following information sources were used to prepare and update the above essay. The hyperlinks are not necessarily still active today.

  1. "Bishops may move to tighten rules governing hospitals," AANEWS, 2000-DEC-7
  2. "Emergency Contraception: Catholic hospitals routinely refuse to offer treatment, even to rape victims," Kaiser reproductive health report, at: http://report.kff.org/
  3. Dave Clark, "Catholic 'spokesman' denounced," Focus on the Family, at: http://www.family.org/

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 Home page > "Hot" topics > Abortion > Religious aspects > here

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Copyright © 2000to 2005 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Originally written: 2000-DEC-8
Latest update: 2005-MAY-06
Author: B.A. Robinson

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