Colorado Judge Will Decide Soon on Arbitration of Abortion-Buyout Lawsuit

State   |   Steven Ertelt   |   May 29, 2008   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

Colorado Judge Will Decide Soon on Arbitration of Abortion-Buyout Lawsuit

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by Steven Ertelt Editor
May 29
, 2008

Denver, CO ( — A Colorado judge is expected to decide soon on the request for arbitration a Catholic hospital system purchasing two hospitals in Denver is seeking. The system has asked a judge to dismiss a lawsuit filed to stop the buyout after a dispute over abortion.

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

The owner of Exempla filed a lawsuit against the state attorney general for not intervening in the sale because it would result in the stopping of abortions there.

Exempla filed suit in January in Denver District Court to stop the sale but Sisters of Charity asked Denver District Judge William Robbins to stop it from moving ahead so it can pursue binding arbitration.

According to the Denver Post, Exempla Inc. attorney Jay Horowitz said the case should not be arbitrated because it involves tax-exempt institutions and "compelling issues of public policy."

"This case is manifestly not the type of case that should be decided . . . by a private arbitrator who is not accountable to the public . . . who need not make finding of fact or conclusions of law explaining his decision," Horowitz said in a motion filed with the judge this week.

But Sisters of Charity spokeswoman Christine Woolsey told the Post newspaper that the contract that created Exempla calls for arbitration in cases of disputes and said it is quicker and less expensive than a lawsuit.

She also said Attorney General John Suthers evaluated the buyout and approved the transfer of assets.

Exempla chief executive Jeff Selberg previously 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.”

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.