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

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

Here are some factors that, for most patients, they do not belong: “The purposes of God”, “the will of God”, “the truth that life is a precious gift from God”.

But if our hypothetical patient is in a Catholic hospital, those factors, precisely those words, will control the decision, whether he is treated or not. her or her doctor believe in God’s plan. It is clearly explained in ethical guidelines from the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops: “Direct sterilization of men or women, whether permanent or temporary, is not permitted in a Catholic health care institution.” She will not have the operation no matter how safe and legal it is from a medical point of view, no matter what she wants.

Clearly I should have chosen a different hospital. But with Catholic healthcare systems expanding across the country, that might not be an option. A 2020 report by Community Catalyst, a nonprofit health advocacy group, found that four of the 10 largest health systems in the country were Catholic. the Catholic Health Association says Catholic facilities now account for more than 1 in 7 US hospital patients.

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That number is likely to grow, as Catholic health systems expand by merging or acquiring secular hospitals and networks. This consolidation is happening near me, in the Albany, NY area. Like the Union of Times recently reportedone of our large health systems, St. Peter’s Health Partners, part of a Catholic network, has begun to coalesce with the secular Ellis Medicine, which will finally put “God’s will” in charge of Ellis Hospital and the Bellevue Woman’s Center, which provides care during pregnancy and maternity.

That would mean no tubal ligations for contraceptive purposes. It would also mean no abortions, vasectomies, IUDs, or in vitro fertilization. It will most likely limit options in end-of-life care and end gender-affirming care.

A patient deciding where to have her C-section, even if she still has a choice of hospitals. I may not even know this. Why would you assume that a nonprofit hospital, fueled by huge infusions of state and federal funding, could legally deny medical care to its patients?

But that’s exactly what happens when the church calls the shots on medical decisions. Not just in hospitals, either: Urgent care centers and doctors’ offices that are part of a Catholic network might well refuse to prescribe birth control or provide abortion services or counseling.

New York State has made efforts to protect reproductive rights, beginning with the Reproductive Health Act of 2019, which codified the right to abortion. As state after state passes abortion bans in the wake of Roe vs. WadeIt’s fall, I often think, selfishly, thank God I live in New York.

But I still live in the Commonwealth of Religious Deference, where rules can be broken and citizens can be denied basic services as long as someone has decided that this is the way God wants it.

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Some lawmakers are backing down. a recent bill sponsored by New York State Senator Michelle Hinchey, which has been approved by the Senate and awaits an Assembly vote, would require hospitals to publish a list of “policy-based exclusions”, detailing the care they will not provide, on their websites. in oregon, a new law gives state officials the authority to block hospital mergers that would result in restricted access to health care.

But underlying these efforts lies unquestioned the notion that Catholic hospitals have a right to deny care. That religious organizations, despite their public funding, do not have to abide by secular norms.

blue states? secular country? It doesn’t matter The most shocking recent evidence that even New Yorkers live in a God-knows-best state is a devastating New York Times report in the state’s Hasidic schools, which teach Jewish law and tradition but little English or math. In 2019, 99 percent of the thousands of Hasidic children who took state standardized tests failed. Meanwhile, New York yeshivot receive lots of funding for education: “over $1 billion” in government money in the last four years. Religious leaders systematically denied their students the constitutionally protected opportunity of a “good basic education”, and the political leaders allowed it to happen.

Or at least they did. The New York State Board of Regents recently voted to demand private schools to prove they were teaching basic subjects or else they risk losing public funding. Whether that rule will be enforced remains to be seen. But it is a start.

I’d like to see the New York State Department of Health take the same approach to health networks: show that it’s giving patients all the care that modern medicine has made possible, state law has made feasible, and the Affordable Care Act has deemed essential. , and you’ll get your tax breaks and your Medicaid payments.

What if you have a patient who believes that contraception is against God’s will? He can choose not to have his tubes tied.

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