Washington: Catholic Hospitals May be Required to Perform Abortions

State   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Aug 22, 2013   |   11:50AM   |   Olympia, WA

Washington state Attorney General Bob Ferguson issued an opinion yesterday saying that every public hospital in the state — which might include religiously-run hospitals like Catholic hospitals — must provide abortions.

He said that abortion mandate is a must for any hospital in any taxpayer-funded public health district in Washington that provides maternity care. Those hospitals must continue to offer “substantially equivalent benefits” in the form of contraception and abortion despite their religious persuasions. The only way to get around the requirement is by dropping maternity care.

“I fully expect all public hospital districts to comply with this opinion,” Ferguson told a Seattle news conference, according to one news report.

From the Seattle PI newspaper:

The opinion impacts a growing trend in Washington, in which small local hospitals have chosen to affiliate with larger health organizations, including Catholic-affiliated PeaceHealth and Providence Health and Services.

Under a directive by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, church-affiliated hospitals cannot perform abortions, are restricted in contraceptive services and cannot assist in patient suicides.

State Sen. Kevin Ranker, D-Orcas, asked the AG if a public hospital district would violate the state’s Initiative 120 if it solely contracts with a health care provider — such as a Catholic-affiliated hospital — that does not provide reproductive care services such as contraception and abortion.

Under the terms of I-120, adopted by voters in 1991, a public hospital district “may not provide maternity care without abortion and birth control . . . There are more than 50 public hospitals in Washington and this affects all of them,” Ferguson said.  The initiative did not impose the requirement on private hospitals.

I-120 is one of the nation’s most sweeping abortion rights laws.  It was voted into law 21 years after the 1970 election in which Washington voted to make abortion legal.

It declares that Washington residents have a “fundamental right to choose or refuse” contraception or abortion, and prohibits the state from discriminating against the exercise of these rights in the “regulation or provision of benefits, facilities, services or information.”

It also requires that, if the state (including public hospital districts) provides maternity care services or information, it must furnish “substantially equivalent benefits, services or information” regarding abortion and birth control.

That hospitals might be forced to do abortions is no surprise given that Washington, in January, was ranked by the Americans United for Life organization as the most pro-abortion state in the nation.

Abortion activists in the state legislature have been pushing a measure that has been unsuccessful so far that would force insurance companies to pay for abortions.

The Reproductive Parity Act would force health insurance companies to offer coverage for elective abortions and will threaten freedom of conscience in the state. House Bill 1044 would create an unprecedented requirement in the State of Washington that all health plans that provide “coverage for maternity care or services must also provide a covered person with substantially equivalent coverage to permit the voluntary termination of a pregnancy.”  While the bill’s proponents claim to protect freedom of conscience, the bill in fact fails to provide adequate conscience protections, particularly for insurance carriers.

Meanwhile, the Planned Parenthood abortion business is fighting abortion reporting requirements.

CORRECTION: The first two paragraphs have been updated to make it clear this refers to publicly-funded hospitals.