Catholic Hospitals Expand, Religious Strings Attached
As Roman Catholic leaders and government officials clash over the proper role of religion and reproductive health, shifts in health care economics are magnifying the tension. Financially stronger Catholic-sponsored medical centers are increasingly joining with smaller secular hospitals, in some cases limiting access to treatments like contraception, abortion and sterilization.
In Seattle, Swedish Health Services has offered elective abortions for decades. But the hospital agreed to stop when it joined forces this month with Providence Health & Services, one of the nation’s largest Catholic systems.
In late December, Gov. Steve Beshear of Kentucky turned down a bid by Catholic Health Initiatives, another large system, to merge with a public hospital in Louisville, in part because of concern that some women would have less access to contraceptive services.
And in Rockford, Ill., there is resistance to a plan by OSF HealthCare, run by the Sisters of the Third Order of St. Francis, to buy a hospital because of new restrictions that would require women to go elsewhere if they wanted a tubal ligation after a Caesarean section.