Colorado Catholic Hospital Seeks Arbitration of Abortion-Buyout Lawsuit

State   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Feb 8, 2008   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

Colorado Catholic Hospital Seeks Arbitration of Abortion-Buyout Lawsuit Email this article
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by Steven Ertelt Editor
February 8,

Denver, CO ( — The Catholic hospital system that is purchasing two hospitals in Denver is seeking binding arbitration and asking a judge to dismiss a lawsuit filed to stop the buyout. The owner of one of the hospitals filed a lawsuit against the state attorney general for not intervening in the sale because it would result in the stopping of abortions there.

Sisters of Charity Leavenworth Health System is purchasing Exempla Lutheran Medical Center and Good Samaritan hospital — both located in Denver suburbs.

The sale could stop abortions at Exempla and Exempla Inc., which owns both health centers, filed suit in January in Denver District Court to stop the sale.

According to the Denver Post, Sisters of Charity plans to ask the judge in the case to stop it from moving ahead so it can pursue binding arbitration.

"We are disappointed that we have been forced to take these steps, but we feel it is important to protect Exempla’s hospitals from erosion of their assets," Sisters of Charity CEO Bill Murray said in a statement. "The Exempla board’s continued attempt to block the transaction is a misuse of Exempla’s resources."

Exempla chief executive Jeff Selberg made it appear that he would welcome arbitration only if Sisters was willing to drop its mandate that abortions not be done.

"If they are willing to protect the heritage of Lutheran and Good Samaritan hospitals, we welcome them back to the table," he told the newspaper.

Jim Pfaff, the president of the Colorado Family Institute, told that the lawsuit is "preposterous" and chastised Exempla’s board for being more concerned about abortion than providing good health care.

"When it comes to making abortions available, supporters of abortion rights will bring out lawsuits and expensive media campaigns to fight to preserve the right of clinics and hospitals to perform abortions," he said.

He said Sisters of Charity has "a long tradition of providing life-giving medical services to people in need. It would be a shame if abortion advocates are successful in stopping this sale for mere political gain.”

State law requires Attorney General John Suthers to approve the transfer of assets, and Suthers decided in December not to challenge the purchase.

That led Exempla Inc. to sue to force Suthers to vacate his opinion endorsing the sale. Suthers previously said the sale did not violate state laws on non-profits.

Exempla argues the attorney general doesn’t have the legal purview over such transactions under the Hospital Transfer Act.

Suthers said he found no "material change in the charitable purposes" of the hospitals once the sale proceeds so he has "no basis to challenge the transfer."

Previously, Dr. Carla Murphy, president of the Exempla Lutheran medical staff, told the Denver Post that doctors are upset that a community hospital supposedly will no longer serve the community by not doing abortions.

"For more than a hundred years, Lutheran has served the entire community," Murphy said. "What might be appropriate for a Catholic hospital serving a predominantly Catholic population is not appropriate for a community hospital."

She claimed several doctors would leave the hospital if the sale is finalized.

The controversy comes as Planned Parenthood has upset pro-life advocates in Colorado by engaging in a secret process to build a new abortion center in Denver.

Planned Parenthood purchased the land it’s using to build the new abortion center from United Airlines.

During the approval process for starting the building project, Iowa-based contractor Weitz Company listed United as the owner of the property to hide Planned Parenthood’s ownership of the land.

Planned Parenthood set up a front group called Fuller 38 to set up all of the operations.