Catholic Hospital Group Says Abortions Pressures Means HHS Rule Needed

National   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Sep 26, 2008   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

Catholic Hospital Group Says Abortion Pressures Means HHS Rule Needed

by Steven Ertelt Editor
September 26
, 2008

Washington, DC ( — On the last day for public comments about the proposed rule to enforce the laws protecting medical staff and centers from doing abortions, a Catholic hospital network says it’s needed. The Alliance of Catholic Health Care says it has enough evidence of doctors and medical centers facing pressure to do abortions.

Citing the need to be free from religious discrimination for the conscience protections it offers, the Alliance called on the Health and Human Services Department to finalize the proposal that has been in the news the last few weeks.

The proposal provides more enforcement for three civil rights laws that protect medical personnel from employment discrimination and centers from discrimination from state or local governments.

It asks employers and governments to certify in writing that they are not forcing centers or employees to do abortions or refer for them against their religious or moral views.

States that do not respect or enforce existing laws recognizing freedom of conscience could lose certain federal funding, including matching funds for state Medicaid programs if they violate these federal laws.

The comments from the Alliance came in the form of a letter to Secretary Michael Leavitt and were submitted on behalf of the four health systems and 53 Catholic hospitals represented by the Alliance.

Those hospitals represent 16 percent of California’s acute care, in-patient hospitals.

"Our members provide health care services in accordance with the religious and moral tenets of the Catholic faith," said William J. Cox, president and CEO of the Alliance. "Central to these beliefs is a firm commitment to the dignity of the human person from conception to natural death and a deep concern for the health care needs of the poor and for those in spiritual need."

"We do not impose our religious or moral beliefs on the people and families we serve," said Cox, "but we do hold ourselves accountable, as health care providers, to Catholic ethical and moral standards."

Cox says the Alliance has numerous examples of pressure that has repeatedly been brought to bear through state legislation, licensing or certification authorities and professional boards to coerce individual and institutional health care providers into violating their consciences by forcing them to conduct or receive training in the performance of abortions.

In April 2000, attempts were made to use the California Medical Assistance Commission to force Catholic hospitals to provide abortion and other reproductive services as a condition of receiving a Medi-Cal (Medicaid) contract.

In 1999, a bill failed on the floor of the state Assembly (AB 525) that would have required Catholic hospitals to provide or arrange for abortions or lose tens of millions of dollars in annual state assistance and impose restrictions on mergers between non-profit health care institutions if access to abortion might be affected.

Most recently, in 2005, the California Attorney General sued to overturn the federal Weldon Conscience Amendment on the grounds that it was an unconstitutional infringement on the State of California to enforce its own abortion statutes. The suit was dismissed on procedural grounds.

"These assaults on freedom of conscience not only run counter to our nation’s commitment to religious tolerance and liberty, they conclusively demonstrate the urgent need for the proposed regulation," added Cox.

"Several of the federal statutes mentioned in the proposed regulations have been in place for more than 30 years, but that hasn’t deterred influential California officials from attempting to contravene them."

Related web sites:
Alliance of Catholic Health Care –

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