Opinion | Catholic hospitals are expanding — and denying basic health care

Let’s say a patient is considering tubal ligation after a planned cesarean because she doesn’t want to get pregnant again. Here are some factors that go into this decision: her vision for her reproductive future, her doctor’s advice, state regulations, American College of Obstetricians and Gynecology recommendations, the latest scientific research.

Here are some factors that do not apply to most patients: “God’s purposes”, “God’s will”, “the truth that life is a precious gift from God”.

But if our hypothetical patient ends up in a Catholic hospital, these factors — these very words — will control the decision, whether or not she or her doctor believes in God’s plan. This is clearly stated in the ethical directives of the US Conference of Catholic Bishops: “Direct sterilization of men or women, whether permanent or temporary, is not permitted in a Catholic health care facility.” She will not have the operation, however safe it may be. and medically legal whatever she wants.

Obviously, he should have chosen another hospital. But with the expansion of Catholic health systems across the country, that may not be an option. A 2020 report by Community Catalyst, a nonprofit health advocacy group, found that four of the nation’s 10 largest health systems are Catholic. The Catholic Health Association says Catholic facilities now account for more than 1 in 7 U.S. hospital patients.

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That number is likely to grow as Catholic health systems expand through mergers or acquisitions of secular hospitals and networks. This consolidation is happening near me in the Albany, New York area. As the Times Union recently reported, one of our major health systems, St. Peter’s Health Partners, part of a Catholic network, began a merger with the secular Ellis Medicine, which would eventually put “God’s Will” in charge of Ellis Hospital and Bellevue Woman’s Center, which provides pregnancy and maternity care.

This would mean no tubal ligation for contraceptive purposes. It would also mean no abortions, vasectomies, IUDs or IVF. This would likely limit choice in end-of-life care and end gender-affirming care.

A patient deciding where to have a C-section—even if she still has a choice of hospitals—may not even know that. Why would she assume that a for-profit hospital supported by large infusions of state and federal funds could legally withhold health care from its patients?

But that’s exactly what happens when the church has the final say in medical decisions. Not just in hospitals: Urgent care centers and physician practices that are part of a Catholic network may refuse to prescribe birth control or provide abortion services or counseling.

New York State has made efforts to protect reproductive rights, starting with the Reproductive Health Act of 2019, which codified the right to abortion. As state after state passes abortion bans as a result of Roe v. WadeAutumn, I often think selfishly, thank God I live in New York.

But I still live in a Community of Religious Respect where rules can be broken and citizens can be denied basic services as long as someone has decided that’s the way God wants it.

Some lawmakers are pushing back. A recent bill sponsored by New York State Sen. Michelle Hinchey, which passed the Senate and awaits a vote in the Assembly, would require hospitals to publish a list of “policy-based exceptions” detailing the care they will not provide , on their websites. In Oregon, a new law gives state officials the power to block hospital mergers that would result in limited access to health care.

But beneath these efforts lies the undeniable notion that Catholic hospitals have the right to refuse care. That religious organizations, despite their public funding, are not required to adhere to secular standards.

Blue states? A secular state? never mind The most shocking recent evidence that even New Yorkers live in a state that God knows best is a devastating New York Times report on the state’s Hasidic schools that teach Jewish law and tradition but little English or math. In 2019, 99 percent of the thousands of Hasidic boys who took state standardized tests failed. Meanwhile, yeshivas in New York are getting an abundance of education funding — “more than $1 billion” in government money over the past four years. Religious leaders systematically deny their students the constitutionally protected opportunity for a “good primary education,” and political leaders allow this to happen.

Or at least they did. The New York State Board of Regents recently voted to require private schools to prove they teach core subjects or risk losing public funding. Whether this rule will be enforced remains to be seen. But it’s a start.

I would like to see the New York State Department of Health take the same approach to health networks: prove that you are providing patients with all the care that modern medicine has made possible, state law has made feasible, and the Affordable Care Act has deemed essential. and you will receive your tax exemption and Medicaid payments.

And if you happen to have a patient who believes that contraception is against God’s will? She can choose not to have her tubes tied.

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