A new Washington Post article criticized Catholic hospitals this week for providing health care to all Americans including unborn babies, prompting one prominent abortion activist to demand that they shut down.
Jill Filipovic, a writer and abortion activist, said Catholic hospitals should “not be in business” or receive tax dollars to serve Medicaid and other low-income patients if they refuse to do abortions.
“The religious affiliation of a hospital should not dictate healthcare. If Catholic hospitals refuse to offer a basic standard of reproductive care, they should not be in business — and certainly shouldn’t be getting government resources or tax breaks,” Filipovic wrote on Twitter, linking to the Washington Post article.
The piece criticized Catholic health systems, which are expanding health care in rural and low-income areas where other health care providers are shutting down. The problem, according to the Washington Post, is that Catholic health systems recognize unborn babies as valuable human beings and refuse to kill them in elective abortions.
“Spread of Catholic hospitals limits reproductive care across the U.S.,” the headline reads. “Religious doctrine restricts access to abortion and birth control and limits treatment options for miscarriages and ectopic pregnancies.”
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Authors Frances Stead Sellers and Meena Venkataramanan began the piece with the U.S. Supreme Court ruling Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health, which overturned Roe v. Wade and allows states to protect unborn babies from abortion again.
The Supreme Court decision overturning the constitutional right to abortion is revealing the growing influence of Catholic health systems and their restrictions on reproductive services including birth control and abortion — even in the diminishing number of states where the procedure remains legal.
Catholic systems now control about 1 in 7 U.S. hospital beds, requiring religious doctrine to guide treatment, often to the surprise of patients. Their ascendancy has broad implications for the evolving national battle over reproductive rights beyond abortion, as bans against it take hold in more than a dozen Republican-led states.
According to the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, Catholic hospitals do not provide elective abortions because they are “immoral.” The Catholic Church teaches that every human being from conception to natural death is valuable because he or she is created in the image of God, and killing an innocent human being is a grave moral evil.
“The directives are not just a collection of dos and don’ts,” John F. Brehany, executive vice president of the National Catholic Bioethics Center, told the Washington Post. “They are a distillation of the moral teachings of the Catholic church as they apply to modern health care.”
Catholic hospitals are providing essential medical care to millions of Americans every year, serving people who others will not – including babies in the womb and people in rural areas. Brian Reardon, of the Catholic Health Association, pointed this out to the newspaper, noting how Catholics’ dedication to serving women and children in need is “rooted in our reverence for life.”
But the Washington Post writers spun this as a bad thing, commenting, “… the lack of choice has been felt keenly in rural and low-income communities where patients cannot easily transfer to secular institutions, reproductive rights advocates say.”
The article continued:
The role of Catholic doctrine in U.S. health care has expanded during a years-long push to acquire smaller institutions — a reflection of consolidation in the hospital industry, as financially challenged community hospitals and independent physicians join bigger systems to gain access to electronic health records and other economies of scale. Acquisition by a Catholic health system has, at times, kept a town’s only hospital from closing. …
Four of the nation’s 10 largest health systems are now Catholic, according to a 2020 report by the liberal health advocacy organization Community Catalyst. The 10 largest Catholic health systems control 394 short-term, acute-care hospitals, a 50 percent increase over the past two decades. In Alaska, Iowa, South Dakota, Washington and Wisconsin, 40 percent or more of hospital beds are in Catholic facilities.
This should be cause for celebration among so-called women’s health care advocates, but it is not. Instead, the expansion is causing alarm because Catholic health care services refute their false claim that killing unborn babies in elective abortions is health care.
The article also claimed Catholic pro-life policies may limit treatment for ectopic pregnancies and miscarriages. But doctors like Dr. Christina Francis, board chair of the American Association of Pro-Life OB-GYNs, have said otherwise.
In an interview earlier this year, Francis said she worked at a Catholic hospital that did not do abortions during her medical residency, but she and the other doctors did treat women with ectopic pregnancies and miscarriages.
“I’ve never needed to perform an elective abortion, and yet I’ve been able to take care of women with ectopic pregnancies and miscarriages throughout my career,” she said.
Pro-life medical workers are increasingly concerned about threats to religious freedom and conscience protections under the Biden administration.
Last year, the Biden administration dropped a lawsuit against a hospital accused of tricking a pro-life nurse into aborting an unborn baby.
Now, pro-life and religious groups are working to oppose a proposed new Biden administration rule that they say could force physicians and hospitals to perform abortions even if they have a moral objection. In September, the Catholic Health Care Leadership Alliance filed a comment against the proposed change to an Affordable Care Act rule.
“Catholic hospitals and Catholic health care professionals are bound to follow the long-standing tradition of the healing ministry of Jesus Christ and His Church, providing life affirming care from conception to natural death and upholding the dignity of the human person,” said Dr. Steven White, president of the alliance and former president of the Catholic Medical Association. “Doctors must never be forced to participate against their conscience.”
Another sign of the growing threat, the U.S. House Pro-Choice Caucus published a new talking points memo in May that told lawmakers to say “refusal of care/denial of care laws” instead of conscience protections.
And recently, pro-life doctors threatened to sue the American Board of Obstetrics and Gynecology after it threatened to decertify physicians who provide alleged “misinformation and disinformation” about abortion to patients, such as studies that show links between infertility, breast cancer, mental health problems and abortion.
Some doctors in other countries already have been suspended and subjected to years-long investigations for sharing information about abortion that pro-abortion groups don’t like.