Later On

A blog written for those whose interests more or less match mine.

Catholic church to restrict women’s healthcare options

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The Catholic church is planning to drastically limit reproductive and maternity care, not just for Catholics but for all patients, regardless of their religious beliefs. The Catholic church will impose its own restrictive rules—e.g., no contraception or birth control is allowed—on non-Catholics because they will have the power to do that in many communities, served only by Catholic hospitals.

Nina Martin of ProPublica reports on the curtailment of medical services, thanks to the Catholic church:

The 2011 merger of the two remaining hospitals in Troy, N.Y., had many potential benefits —and one huge hurdle.

Samaritan was secular, committed to providing the widest possible spectrum of reproductive and maternity care to its Albany-area patients. St. Mary’s was Catholic, limiting or banning many reproductive options— and any merger partner had to abide by the same rules.

It took several years of negotiations among three different health systems, much back-and-forth with women’s advocates, and the sign-off of the local bishop. But in the end, the parties struck a deal that all of them could live with. The centerpiece was the brand-new Burdett Care Center, housed on Samaritan’s second floor.

To all appearances, Burdett was a typical maternity ward. But in reality, it was a separately incorporated hospital-within-a-hospital, secular and thus free from the Catholic restrictions that Samaritan had agreed to follow. Burdett could provide birth control and perform tubal ligations; if a woman was having a miscarriage or ectopic pregnancy, doctors could treat her according to generally accepted standards of care.

Complicated? Yes. Cumbersome? Very. Still, as a compromise to preserve access to care in Troy, “it’s worked very well,” said Lois Uttley of the nonprofit group MergerWatch, which helped broker the arrangement.

Soon, though, compromises between Catholic health systems and their non-Catholic partners may be rarer and harder to achieve — and that could have profound implications for women’s access to reproductive services in hundreds of communities across the U.S.

The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops is meeting in Baltimore this week, and members are considering whether to begin the process of revising — and likely tightening — its directives governing health care mergers and partnerships. The goal, according to a USCCB press release, would be to incorporate Vatican principles ensuring that Catholic institutions do not “cooperate immorally with the unacceptable procedures conducted in other health care entities with which they may be connected” or “cause scandal” as a result of such collaborations.

The USCCB — whose members oversee Catholic health care systems in their individual dioceses — didn’t respond to a request for an interview about what the new directives might say or how the revision process might proceed. A spokesman for the Catholic Health Association of the United States, whose members control 1 in 6 hospital beds around the country, also declined to comment.

But women’s groups and consumer advocates are worried. Stricter rules, they say, would probably doom workarounds like the Burdett center — and could affect everything from employment contracts for doctors and nurses at Catholic facilities to deals with third-party suppliers such as testing labs.

“The scope of Catholic health care in this country is big,” said Sara Hutchinson Ratcliffe, domestic program director for Catholics for Choice in Washington, D.C. “The restrictions on reproductive healthcare that [the bishops] already place on Catholic health systems are far-reaching and growing. Any changes the bishops make to further limit [care] … should be very concerning to everyone.” . . .

Continue reading.

Note the “cause scandal” comment in the story. “Scandal,” in the eyes of the Catholic church, is the very worst thing that could ever happen—certainly “scandal” is much worse than raping children, because the Catholic church allowed priests and other religious to continue their pedophilia because having them accused and tried for their crimes would have caused “scandal,” so thousands more children had to be sacrificed to avoid “scandal.”

It’s peculiar that an institution that would do that would be so concerned about morality—concerned enough to curtail full healthcare for non-Catholics, who (in their own view) are being perfectly moral in availing themselves of contraception and medically necessary abortions.

I think this is a travesty of religion.

UPDATE: In all fairness, I should note that this behavior—insisting that others follow your own religion’s rules and punishing those who do not—is not uniquely Catholic and indeed seems typical of authoritarian religions. In Saudi Arabia, for example, women are attacked if their dress is deemed immodest by what amount to religious police. And of course the Taliban is notorious for such behavior, such as attempting to kill a young woman who was getting an education and encouraging other women to be educated, something strictly against the Taliban’s religion. The Catholic church is similar in its approach: rules for believers must also be followed by non-believers.

Later in that article:

The Ethical and Religious Directives for Catholic Health Care Services, which governs every Catholic hospital, clinic, nursing home, and health-care business in the country. The 72 directives ban elective abortion, sterilization, and birth control. They also restrict fertility treatments, genetic testing, and end-of-life options.

In some instances, the ERDs have been interpreted to limit crisis care for women suffering miscarriages or ectopic pregnancies, emergency contraception for sexual assault, and even the ability of doctors and nurses to discuss treatment options or make referrals. The impact of the directives is felt especially in communities —often in rural areas — served by just one hospital. In Bartlesville, Okla., for example, the only medical center in town tried to force all OB/GYNs with admitting privileges to stop prescribing birth control to female patients. (The hospital later backed down.)

Yet many patients have no idea that the ERDs exist or that their hospital or clinic has begun partnering with a Catholic facility. “It’s a huge problem in terms of getting care or even getting information about your care,” said Louise Melling, the deputy legal director for the ACLU, which is suing the bishops conference over a botched miscarriage treatment at a Catholic hospital in Michigan.

In Washington, which has seen more religious-secular partnerships than any other state in recent years, Seattle’s archbishop tried to force a Catholic hospital with the only lab in the area to cease running tests for Planned Parenthood. Catholic health systems also have pressured doctors with admitting privileges to stop helping terminally ill patients who want to make use of the state’s “death with dignity” law. This past summer, theACLU stepped in to stop a deal involving Washington State University and a Catholic system that would have made a planned teaching clinic in Spokane subject to the ERDs (the clinic will be secular).

So they will not only refuse to give you the medical care you need, they don’t even allow you to hear about it so you can seek help elsewhere. And note the effort to shut down birth control for everyone in town, whether Catholic or not: that’s the spirit of the Taliban.

The Catholic church takes it to a new level of oppression, however, by not even informing patients that their choices are restricted and incomplete. Keeping the restrictions secret does avoid arguments, but it is a stunning example of bad faith and dishonesty.

Written by Leisureguy

11 November 2014 at 11:51 am

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