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Watchdog finds much larger Catholic influence on US hospitals

Nuns rally before Zubik v. Burwell
Nuns rally before Zubik v. Burwell, an appeal brought by Christian groups demanding full exemption from the requirement to provide insurance covering contraception under the Affordable Care Act, is heard by the U.S. Supreme Court in Washington, March 23, 2016. Photo courtesy REUTERS/Joshua Roberts

NEW YORK (Reuters) A growing number of U.S. hospitals are now owned or affiliated with Catholic health institutions that restrict procedures such as sterilizations or abortion, according to patients’ rights watchdog MergerWatch.

Between 2001 and 2016, the number of Catholic-owned or -affiliated hospitals rose 22 percent to 548 from 449, most of them nonprofit facilities, MergerWatch said in a report released on Thursday (May 5).


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While adherence varies, many of these hospitals follow the directives of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, which prohibit on religious grounds procedures that can interfere with conception or that terminate pregnancy.

“In general, Catholic hospitals provide excellent care,” said Lois Uttley, director of MergerWatch and an author of the report. “Our concern is with these restrictions with reproductive health care.”

The Catholic Health Association could not comment on the report before it was made public.

MergerWatch said it seeks to protect patients rights as hospitals merge, with support from the American Civil Liberties Union and philanthropic institutions such as the Ford Foundation.

MergerWatch’s last count of Catholic-owned or -affiliated hospitals, released in 2013, showed 381 facilities as of 2011, up from 329 in 2001. Its new report added a count of Catholic hospitals acquired by secular health systems which continue to follow religious directives, as well as public or nonprofit hospitals that do not declare an affiliation but are managed or owned by Catholic health systems.

In all, 14.5 percent of all acute care hospitals in the country are now Catholic-owned or -affiliated, the MergerWatch report said. The concentration is much higher in 10 U.S. states, including Washington, Colorado and Missouri, where more than 30 percent of acute care beds are in Catholic-owned or -affiliated facilities.

The ACLU said women may be unaware of the restrictions at a particular hospital until they arrive at an emergency room during a miscarriage.

Julia Kaye, a staff attorney with the ACLU Reproductive Freedom Project, has seen an uptick in complaints and litigation since 2013.

Kaye said this issue has been a problem for a long time, but “it is gaining more national attention.”

Jennafer Norris, 37, contacted the ACLU about her experience eight months ago at a Catholic hospital in Arkansas. She does not plan to file a lawsuit but has begun speaking about her case publicly. The ACLU put Reuters in touch with her.

Norris is a former social worker who was using the long-term contraceptive IUD, or intrauterine device, but became pregnant. She developed high blood pressure and other complications seen during two previous pregnancies.

A doctor at the hospital determined she needed a Caesarian section eight weeks before her due date to protect her and the baby. Norris asked for a tubal ligation at the same time to ensure she would not get pregnant again, but the Catholic hospital refused.

“They told me I had to go along with their hospital procedures or discharge myself against medical advice and go to another hospital,” said Norris.

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32 Comments

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  • As a family physician who is Catholic, I do not recommend any woman to go for care to a Catholic hospital during her reproductive years. The bishops are in charge of reproductive issues rather than the doctors. A woman’s life can be at serious risk and even death can occur, because of the directives of bishops who have no knowledge of medicine.

    Sadly, when cases come to trial, the judges who are Catholic can dismiss a case out of hand, to protect the Catholic Church from accountability, without understanding the dangers that women are in when they are at the mercy of the bishops rules in Catholic run hospitals. Very sad.

    I am glad to see that women are beginning to speak up for their rights to receive the normal standard of care, since Catholic hospitals give substandard care to women, in my view as a family physician who no longer is willing to practice in a Catholic hospital.
    Sincerely, Dr Rosemary Eileen McHugh, MD, MSpir

  • It is very sad that you seem to care more about the misguided teachings of bishops who have no clue about the medical and reproductive needs of women, and you show no care that Catholic hospitals do not offer the normal standard of care that other hospitals offer.

    The issue is not theology but medical care. The pope and bishops are not qualified to practice medicine and not qualified to be in charge of hospitals. They need to get out of the hospital business, or more women are likely to be hurt by the bishops’ directives at Catholic hospitals.

    As a man, maybe you do not care about the needs of women, just as the bishops show they do not seem to care, or even to listen to the dangers they cause to women.

  • Why do you say that the Bishops have “no clue about the medical and reproductive needs of women”? Is that because they are not women? How then can you help someone who has diphtheria if you’ve never had it? Or decide what treatment is best for a paraplegic if you have not lost the use of your limbs?

    You haven’t got to be a woman to understand that human life is all important, from conception to natural death and that when a pregnant woman presents herself then there are two patients not just one to take care of.

    My bishop is actually qualified to practice medicine so I suspect are some others. You don’t know who are qualified and who are not do you? But that doesn’t stop you bumping your gums. Aside from that the Hospitals are populated by lay doctors in the main who also ascribe to the pro-life message.

    You, I’m glad to say are on the losing side of history, this world has had its fill of death and destruction and you and your like will be consigned to the history books filed under “Horrors of the 20th and 21st Century”!

  • I am sorry that you are unaware of good medical care for women. If you are a woman, you are doing women a great disservice by sticking up for men who are not aware of the crises that can occur during pregnancy, that require immediate evacuation of a pregnancy that is defined as an incomplete abortion or an inevitable abortion. When bishops hear the word abortion, they are programed to believe that no abortion is good medical care and that is not true. One needs to have trained in OB/GYN to appreciate the problem that occurs when faced with an inevitable abortion in a Catholic hospital that can lead to the death of the mother. Family physicians who have delivered babies and OB/GYN doctors have a better understanding of what I am speaking of. Other doctors do not appreciate the problem, since it is out of their scope of practice.

  • I do wish you’d abandon this charade of being a Catholic, Rosemary. It could be confusing.

    At the heart of Catholic teaching and doctrine is the sanctity of life. Elective abortion is the diametric opposite. Pope Francis recently described it, in no uncertain terms, as “evil”.

    You support, promote and champion elective abortion. That leads to automatic (latae sententiae) excommunication. You cannot support, promote or champion abortion and be a Catholic.

    I was also under the impression that you are retired, and have been for several years. So describing yourself as “…no longer willing to practice in a Catholic hospital” is a wee bit misleading, isn’t it? If you are retired, you don’t practice anywhere.

  • I have never promoted elective abortion. You seem unaware of the dangers women are faced with when they go to a Catholic hospital when they are having a spontaneous incomplete or inevitable abortion. It is sad that ill informed bishops are making medical decisions that can lead to the death of women and you do not seem to understand, or maybe you do not care about the danger women face in Catholic hospitals? I am talking about good medical care. The bishops do not understand what good medical care is, in my view. It is your free choice to be an apologist for the bishops no matter if they are right or wrong.

  • “I have never promoted elective abortion. ”

    Yes, you have. We first crossed swords on a Yahoo forum when you were bemoaning the closure of abortion clinics and the lack of availability of such services over a distance of several hundred miles in the Mid-West. That was about the same time as the Gosnell slaughterhouse came to public notice.

    Dressing up your campaign as some kind of resistance to Catholic bishops’ medical intervention – something that does not happen – is dishonest.

  • Not lies, Rosemary, as you know full well.

    You also accused Cardinal Pell of sexual abuse, on the Crux website. You are continually attacking the Catholic Church, its policies, philosophy and teaching, including its pro-life stance, across pretty much every platform on which I have encountered you. If you feel uncomfortable being a Catholic, as your posts continually indicate, it may help if you stop claiming to be one.

    You don’t uphold the Church’s core teachings so it shouldn’t be too much of a wrench.

  • Thank you very much for that perspective Dr. McHugh. Its extremely important for medical professionals to speak out against the attacks on professional ethics and medical necessity being carried out in the name of adherence to religious dogma.

  • The Catholic Church has shown on enough occasions that it will attack the notions of a patient’s right to privacy under HIPAA, notions of medical necessity, professional medical ethics in service of its dogma.

    It is the right of a patient to receive the necessary care they come to a medical facility for. Neither a church nor unlicensed non-medical theologians should have any say in such matters. Your church is not the arbiters of what is medically appropriate for anyone. The whole idea of giving them exemptions on such matters is an attack on the propriety of the medical profession.

    Btw referring to Gosnell as related to abortion rights is as dishonest as one can get. Gosnell could only operate in the environment where there were unreasonable restrictions on access to safe medically qualified providers of the service. Only then would poor women have sought the services of such an unsafe hack. So the deaths and injuries Gosnell caused can be laid at the feet of the fetus worshiping anti-woman anti-abortion types like yourself.

  • Are you serious?

    Gosnell was in Pennsylvania [edited] not Saudi Arabia. Suggesting that there were “unreasonable restrictions” – even by your own very elastic definition – is, to coin a phrase “as dishonest as one can get”. Pa [edited] has one of the more ‘liberal’ abortion regimes in the USA. If you don’t know that, you literally don’t know what you’re talking about.

    “…notions of medical necessity, professional medical ethics in service of its dogma.”

    Tell me when – specific examples – any Catholic hospital has denied anyone acute care (that’s “medical necessity”) on the basis of “dogma”?

    Be very specific, if you would be so kind, so we can check.

  • Gosnell was in Pennsylvania and the state had some of the most onerous restrictions on abortion providers in the northeast. Women would not have considered such an unsafe hack if not for a lack of reasonable alternatives. This plays out everywhere where access to abortion is curtailed. In Texas women are injuring themselves trying to self abort. Something unseen since 1973.

    The fact you are defending Bishops, not doctors or hospital administrators alone demonstrates how dogma takes precedence over medical professional ethics.

  • I beg your pardon: Pennsylvania.

    It may have, as you claim, “some of the most onerous restrictions in the northeast” but they are not really proscriptive. The Gosnell trial also made clear that they had been honoured more in the breach than the observance. There is nothing in them that justified Gosnell’s openly-displayed scale of fees for late term procedures.

    Do remember – he charged a lot of money for late-term abortions. He was interested in money. That’s why he did what he did – absolutely nothing to do with “onerous restrictions”. Such claims are simply ridiculous.

    https://allentownwomenscenter.com/abortion-care/abortion-pa-laws/

    http://statelaws.findlaw.com/pennsylvania-law/pennsylvania-abortion-laws.html

  • I am more than aware of what constitutes good medical care for women. Do you think it is some kind of dark secret that only medics know ? That really is a foolish comment. As for “sticking up for men” that comment alone shows how divorced from reality you are, in all probability you are a very damaged woman who needs to be pitied if you think standing up for human life is a war between men and women. As has been said in other posts here we’re not talking about miscarriages or the unavoidable loss of the baby as a result of saving the mother’s life, we’re talking about the direct search and destroy tactics of abortionists. So don’t try and sway from the main reason why 1 in 5 pregnancies in this world end in direct targeted abortion of the unborn child.
    You mention about my care for women who are in crisis, well let me tell you something when you see as I have two very close friends who have attempted suicide on several occasions and constantly self harm due the regret of their abortions then you finally see the true evil of not just those who carry out the abortion but also those who support it. You obviously couldn’t give a flying fig, just the doctors who carried out their abortion, about their welfare otherwise you would change your mind immediately. Caring professional? Don’t make me laugh.

  • What are you talking about?

    I responded to someone who felt the need to 1ie about some easily verifiable facts, in support of fetus worship.

    I don’t know what nonsense you were asking about. Did you change handles?

    You want an example, the death of Sativa Halappanavar. Killed by doctors more afraid of violating religious based laws than performing a medically necessary procedure.

    Let me put my position this way. Fetus worshipers depends entirely on pretending that their opinion is far more important than the ability of women to make personal and intimate decisions concerning their lives. It us why either omission of their existence in the discussion or s1utshaming is so necessary to their pov. The only life considered is a fetus, not the one whose will keeps it alive. So naturally the whole “when life begins” is really an irrelevancy to “where is it growing”.

    They get mired in dishonest bu11 which fails to distinguish the biological differences between born and unborn. They fail to acknowledge that one can’t “protect the fetus” from its mother. They consider all women to be inferior to their self righteous views.

    I have no respect for the fetus worship point of view because it is dishonest, immoral, narcissistic, hysterical, nonsense. All based on a single flawed premise that you have any business in the personal affairs of pregnant women.

  • Holy Sh1t that was a big batch of crazy!

    You are saying that doctors do not understand medical professional ethics or notions of medical necessity? That you naturally know better for…reasons.

    Here is what you miss in your narcissistic tirade. No woman is answerable to you or some Bishop as to what goes on in their bodies. It’s none of your business and will never be any of yours. If you don’t like the decisions a woman makes regarding her pregnancy, tough luck. Bear your own.

  • You were asked a specific question to name any Catholic hospital that had denied anyone acute care on the basis of dogma. You have failed to answer the question.
    Rather ignorantly you cite the case of Savita Halappanavar which has been used by abortionistas to advance the culture of death. Halappanavar died due to a sepsis infection and received very poor treatment from doctors who should have known better in Galway University Hospital. Prominent Irish and Indian doctors have publicly stated that abortion had nothing to do with the case. This however has not stopped the liars in the pro death community from using her case to further their agenda.
    The failure as you see it of prolifers regarding all life as precious is a badge I’m proud to wear. The fact that a baby in the womb relies on his environment for life is no different from a new born baby relying on their mother for feeding but if you kill a new born baby you’d quite properly be arrested and imprisoned. Life does not start at nine months it starts at conception which you have a problem understanding.
    Perhaps you can answer this question? What is the biological difference between a baby born at 23 weeks and one born at 38 weeks? Apart from the fact that thousands of babies lose their lives before 38 weeks due to the sick minded dogma of those who support abortion?

  • You just don’t get it do you? When a woman is pregnant there are two lives not one to take care of. And don’t dare tell me to ignore the plight of my fellow citizens either born or unborn, I will fight to the death to help anyone in trouble and if that involves caring for the lives of those whom others wish to destroy then so be it. Supporting pain and death must make you very proud.

  • So you changed handles?

    The died because she was refused an abortion which would have saved her life. Sepsis from a fetus dying inside her. The medical inquiry was in a bind since medical ethic conflicted with a draconian law.

    Your refusal to consider the lives of born people is nothing to be proud of. Nor inability to understand the limits of self righteous posturing is another. A fetus is not a baby nor is it remotely sane to pretend it is. That is just dishonesty on your part. Lying is so endemic to your position its impossible to defend on actual facts.

    I don’t ever have to care when life begins. As long as its inside a womb, that woman has the final say on the matter. Not narcissistic self righteous nabobs who can’t understand what privacy and personal autonomy mean.

  • Get what? You think you have a say in what goes on in a woman’s womb? You don’t. Your opinion as to her pregnancy is of no concern. Not is it your right to attack her choices in the matter.

    There is no such thing as an unborn citizen. Your inability to distinguish states of being between born and unborn renders your conflation dishonest and hysterical.

    You are saying that all women must defer to your opinion on the most intimate decisions of their lives. That is just egotistical nonsense. You think women who have abortions are selfish. SFW? It’s not your body, it’s not your life affected by it. It is none of your business. Nobody had to care. Nobody is answerable to you on such matters.

    You don’t actually care about life or you would not be so dismissive of born people. This is all about exalting a fetus to the expense of all sane thinking. Trying to be a self righteous hysteric for its own sake.

  • Let’s cut this short, I have not changed handles. The definition of “fetus” is unborn human being more than eight weeks after conception, before that time they are referred to as an embryo. Life is a progression you do not suddenly become human you are human from the day you were conceived. Your lack of knowledge of basic biology is rather worrying, unfortunately most abortion supporters are equally as ignorant.
    Oh and another thing – in most modern democracies slavery was abolished many years ago yet you still seem to think that you can “own” another human being purely on the basis of having a duty of care placed upon them. You openly state that you have no respect at all for the mother’s womb or the baby she carries within that’s quite an admition to make in public.

  • Then you never asked me anything before. OK. Unborn is inside a womb. Incapable of independent existence outside of its mother’s will. So it is not the equivalent of a born child. A being with independent existence and autonomy. The fact that you refuse to acknowledge such basic biological facts renders your POV deeply dishonest. Since a fetus is inseparable from its mother, you can’t really protect it without attacking her. Unless you can take possession of a fetus as you could for a born child, you are SOL. It’s always going to be her choice. You have no say in the matter.

    You don’t give a flying fig about her. You know better and all women are supposedly answerable to you in your mind.

  • The fact that an unborn baby or indeed a five year old child relies on their mother to look after them is a fact but not a biological fact, it has nothing to do with biology – there are adults too who cannot look after themselves and rely on others for their well being that does not detract from their humanity. You do not respect any woman by offering her an abortion, the very thought that you think that you can horrifies me.

  • Not sure why this was held back – maybe the links.

    I beg your pardon: Pennsylvania.
    It may have, as you claim, “some of the most onerous restrictions in the northeast” but they are not really proscriptive. The Gosnell trial also made clear that they had been honoured more in the breach than the observance. There is nothing in them that justified Gosnell’s openly-displayed scale of fees for late term procedures.
    Do remember – he charged a lot of money for late-term abortions. He was interested in money. That’s why he did what he did – absolutely nothing to do with “onerous restrictions”. Such claims are simply ridiculous.

    Anyone who wants to know the details of Pennsylvania’s abortion laws can look them up at Allentown Women’s Center or search in State Laws Find Law.

    Anyway, I ask again for details of occasions when women have been denied acute care because of Catholic dogma? Specifics, please.

  • You lied about where Gosnell was from. You compounded it with lying about the states abortion restrictions. Which were noted by everyone outside the fetus worship crowd as a key factor in driving women to such a hack. And continue to ignore the common result of abortion restrictions which are injuries and deaths from self abortion acts and the provider of unsafe hacks performing them. You are full of it.

  • Lie? No, I made a mistake. one that I acknowledged and corrected as soon as it was pointed out. The observation about its abortion restrictions stand; it ain’t Saudi Arabia. Or even Northern Ireland. What restrictions particularly bother you? Please be specific.

    You called me a liar. Well, here’s a bit of advice for you: don’t be a prat all your life; have a day off from time to time. You’ll feel better for it.

  • Another one awaiting approval.

    Ah, well, try again.

    Lie? No, I made a mistake. one that I acknowledged and corrected as soon as it was pointed out. The observation about its abortion restrictions stand; it ain’t Saudi Arabia. Or even Northern Ireland. What restrictions particularly bother you? Please be specific.

    You called me a liar. Well, here’s a bit of advice for you: don’t be so angry all your life; have a day off from time to time. You’ll feel better for it.

  • You seem to get away with personal abuse, such as uses of the word “lie” very easily – not sure why.

    Anyway,

    Lie? No, I made a mistake. one that I acknowledged and corrected as soon as it was pointed out. The observation about its abortion restrictions stand; it ain’t Saudi Arabia. Or even Northern Ireland. What restrictions particularly bother you? Please be specific.

    Anyway, here’s a bit of advice for you: try not to be consumed with anger all your life; have a day off from time to time. You’ll feel better for it.

  • Tone trolling doesn’t make your points any more honest or sane.

    How often is lying incorporated into fetus worship argument? Constant hoax attacks on Planned Parenthood, fake crisis center to cajole distressed pregnant women, phony requirements for abortion medical providers (opposed by every professional medical organization), coverups for damages done to women in service of legal restrictions on abortion, ignoring the incidents of women who are injured or killed by hacks because safe licensed medical facilities were nowhere to be found, my favorite is the ignoring the understanding of what personal autonomy means.

    Hysterics are typical of the fetus worship crowd as is abuse and s1utshaming. But I guess when one is so filled with self righteousness and overwhelming egotism they have trouble dealing with people who dare call them out on it.

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