Patients, not parishioners
Wednesday, July 20, 2011, 11:54 am
This letter to the editor appeared in the July 20th edition of the Courier-Journal.
In a June 7 Op-Ed in The Courier-Journal, leaders of
University Hospital, Jewish/St. Mary's Hospitals and St. Joseph Health
System declared that the merger of their institutions would aid the
community and would not result in a “reduction in services available to
the community ... includ[ing] family planning and reproductive health
But they failed to identify how the newly merged entity
would ensure the continued availability of such services, particularly
in light of the Catholic Ethical Directives (ERDs) — the religious-based
directives largely banning those services in Catholic-owned hospitals.
We raised this question, and others, in a June 16 letter to the editor
and called upon University Hospital officials to be more transparent
about the effects on reproductive health services that will result from
the merger and what plans, if any, they have to maintain the current
level of health services to Louisville's poor.
Sadly, Sunday's article in The Courier-Journal confirmed
that those services will be discontinued at University Hospital — a
state-created hospital funded by state and local tax dollars — which
will, as a result of the merger, effectively operate as a Catholic, not
public, institution. As was highlighted in the article, University
Hospital will no longer offer tubal ligations to women due to the ERDs.
after merger, a woman who requires a C-section at University Hospital
cannot elect to receive a tubal ligation as part of a single procedure.
Rather, she must choose to either receive her C-section/tubal at another
facility (a prospect that is unattainable for many of the indigent
patients served by University Hospital), or undergo two separate
procedures and incur additional risks to her health and expense for
doing so. But despite University Hospital's claim that no reduction of
health care services will result from the merger, it still has not
clarified how it intends to follow through on that promise in light of
the reality that the merged entity will be bound by the Catholic
Our calls for greater transparency are not made in a
vacuum. If other communities' experiences are any indication, the merger
will create a Catholic-owned entity that is bound by the decisions of
the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops concerning the delivery of
certain health care services and will, as a result, effectively create
both physical and financial barriers to those services in our community.
While we fully support the rights of every individual to pursue his/her
chosen faith, religious theology is not a sound basis upon which to
deliver health care options in a publicly funded hospital. Moreover,
there remain serious questions about whether using tax dollars to fund
what will be a Catholic-owned entity whose health care decisions are
based, in part, on religious ideology rather than individual patient
needs violates both the state and federal constitutions.
serious implications for reproductive health care and the significant
investment of public resources into this venture, our community deserves
specific answers from University Hospital to these, and other questions
before the merger is finalized because those who seek medical care at
publicly funded hospitals deserve to be treated as patients and not
Reproductive Freedom Project Director
American Civil Liberties Union of Kentucky