Action #1 – Write/call our Attorney General by 9/27 and say “NO”
Dignity Health and Catholic Health Initiatives (CHI) want to merge into one huge Catholic church-controlled conglomerate whose religious strictures threaten women’s lives and access to reproductive health care, along with gender-affirming care, and services for low-income communities. In Ventura County, this “Ministry Alignment Agreement” would effect St. John’s Regional Medical Center and St. John’s Pleasant Valley Hospital, removing what little leeway they have left in providing services within religious strictures. The two Catholic hospital systems have to get approval from our state attorney general before they can proceed with the merger. Let’s say “NO”.
Minimal script: I’m calling from [zip code] and I’m concerned about the merger of Dignity Health and Catholic Health Initiatives in Ventura County. Already Dignity Health hospitals can refuse necessary services for women. A merger will allow the Church to add new restrictions on services that will further endanger our lives. Californians deserve the best care modern science can offer, untinged by religious strictures. If we can’t stop them from operating hospitals with restrictive policies, at least we can do is to stop allowing more of them in.
Contact by September 27th, 2018:
Wendi A. Horwitz, Deputy Attorney General
T: (213) 269-6552
M: 300 South Spring Street, Suite 1702, Los Angeles, CA 90013
Photo: A hanger featuring a picture of Indian woman Savita Halappanavar, 31, who died of blood poisoning in a Catholic hospital in Ireland in 2012 after being refused a termination of her pregnancy, even after diagnosis of miscarriage. Ireland just overturned their anti-abortion law.
- Only 28% of Californians are Catholic.
- 57% of us believe in access to abortion services.
- Only 2% of Catholic women rely on church-approved “natural family planning”.
- 1 in 6 US hospital beds are in Catholic facilites that prohibit essential health care for women, and in some areas, they may be the only choice.
Back to our local problem:
The hospital chains who want to merge are already big systems on their own. Dignity Health has 39 hospitals, in California, Arizona, and Nevada, and provides care in 21 states. CHI spans 18 states and has 103 hospitals, including four academic health centers, major teaching hospitals, and 30 critical access facilities. The merger proposal would cover 28 states and have 139 hospitals, more than 700 care sites, and a combined revenue of 28.4 billion dollars. In California, Dignity Health has 31 hospitals across 17 different counties and CHI has none.
Why are Catholic hospitals so problematic is a secular and diverse society?
Dignity and CHI are both Catholic hospitals, which must follow the Ethical and Religious Directives (ERDs) of the US Conference of Catholic Bishops. These ERDs forbid many health services, including:
- ALL birth control methods
- sterilization, including tubal ligations after childbirth
- miscarriage management
- the least invasive treatments for ectopic pregnancies
- some infertility treatments
- “Death with Dignity” laws
- no exceptions for risks to a patient’s health or even life.
Fourteen of the 31 Dignity Health hospitals in California have carved out a little latitude with a “Statement of Common Values,” and may perform some reproductive health procedures and other services that ERDs prohibit. This “wiggle room” is now in danger. In any case, the basics – abortion, assisted reproductive technologies, and what priests call “euthanasia” are still forbidden.
No matter what administrators say, the Church is in charge
In the Health Care Impact Statement, St. John’s Regional Medical Center states that while their ERDs prohibit tubal ligations and direct abortions, these procedures are still performed when the pathology is determined to present a medical need and/or a clear and present danger to the patient. “No future reductions in the availability and accessibility of reproductive health services are expected at St. John’s Regional Medical Center and St. John’s Pleasant Valley Hospital as a result of the Ministry Alignment Agreement.”
However, they are not in charge of control of what parts of modern medicine you can have if you step into their hospitals. A bunch of guys in robes are. Literally, the guys in the picture at the top.
Although terms of the merger require existing services to continued for five years, it also contains a loophole that allows local Bishops or other Catholic authorities to shed any hospital that violates their newly strengthened rule requiring operation “in full accord with the moral teaching of the Catholic Church,” including specific ethical and religious Directives.”
This is all that St. John’s Regional Medical Center offers now for reproductive services. If the merger takes place, those “Yes’s” could turn to “No’s.”
- Pending Catholic hospital mergers threaten health care access in CA communities (health law)
- Here’s what happens when a Catholic Hospital won’t try to save you (huffpo)
- Religious health care hurts women of color (newrepublic)
- Healthcare denied at 550 hospitals because of Catholic Doctrine (forbes)
- Catholic hospitals denied these women critical care. Now they’re speaking out (ACLU)
- NY Times omitted key fact about a rural hospital: Catholic Rules could endanger women. (rewire)
- This Catholic Hospital failed women who were suffering miscarriages (motherjones)
- Is your hospital Catholic? Many Women Don’t know. Neither do transgender people (rewire)
- Religious refusals in healthcare, a prescription for disaster (lgbtmap.org)
- Catholic hospitals are multiplying and so is their impact on reproductive care (stat)
- Charts: Catholic Hospitals don’t do much for the poor (motherjones) (usatoday)
- Ethicist: The ACLU is right to sue CAtholic Hospitals (nbc news)