ARTICLE 9) Catholic Hospital Mergers Threaten Reproductive Rights For Women
From: Christine Dismore, "Women's Health: A Casualty of Hospital Merger Mania," Ms., July-August, 1998.

The Catholic Church is now the largest private health care provider in the United States, with more than $44 billion in assets. But the church isn't content to run its own hospitals. Increasingly, Catholic hospitals are forming partnerships with secular hospitals and HMOs. And those partnerships are making it difficult for women to get reproductive care.

The Catholic Church imposes rules on its hospitals covering abortion, contraception and sterilization, among other procedures. When Catholic hospitals are competing with secular ones, women who don't want their health in the hands of the church at least have somewhere to go. But as the HMO system cuts into hospital revenues, competing hospitals have an incentive to merge or partner, often forming a local monopoly. Catholic hospitals, with the resources of the church's health care network behind them, are frequently the more powerful partner - and they use their leverage to insist that secular hospitals sign away their right to provide reproductive health services.

These partnership agreements take many forms. Some secular hospitals agree to conform to church doctrines; others continue to offer contraception but not abortion. Some agreements allow an independently run women's health clinic - forcing women to go to more than one provider and offering antiabortionist extremists an easier target than a consolidated hospital.

The hardest hit are poor women, who depend on hospitals for reproductive care when local physicians won't take Medicaid, and who have more difficulty traveling to hospitals far from their homes.

In a few communities, women's health advocates have taken on the Catholic Church and won. But across the country the church is taking control of more and more medical facilities. And women's health care is usually the first victim.

For more information, go to www.mergerwatch.org.

Source: Eclipse, Sarasota, FL 34236, May 1999

Note: In some communities, consumers have lost ready access to all or some of these services: tubal ligations, vasectomies, abortions, contraception, the "morning after pill," condom distribution, in-vitro fertilization and artificial insemination. Also threatened are patients' ability to make end-of-life care choices that are disapproved by church doctrine. With dictatorships falling all over the world in recent years, one wonders why those who claim to follow the Catholic religion don't throw out of office the dictator who sits in Rome and take control of their own lives. This is the same man who traveled to South American and made it a point to tell the poor and starving people there that contraception is a terrible sin, apparently oblivious to the overpopulation and misery around him. The Catholic Church's opposition to family planning is not based on the commandments of the god that is a figment of its imagination. The real reason is that the more Catholics there are in the world, the more money and power the Catholic Church will have. It's that simple. They don't care that the world is already struggling in a sea of too many people. This is the moral leader that Catholics choose to follow? One wonders why. Editor.

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