Providers push back against abortion critics: ‘This country would be in dire straits without Catholic health care’

Criticism of Catholic health care providers and allegations of inadequate care provided to pregnant women resurfaced in secular media in the months following the Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health of the Supreme Court. This decision, released in June, overturned the 1973 decision in Roe v. Wade. Has Dobbs, who defers abortion policy-making to state legislatures, garnered renewed attention?

Mary Haddad, RSM, president and CEO of the Catholic Health Association, a national body representing Catholic health networks and facilities across the country, sees the latest coverage as a continuation of a long campaign of resistance to Catholic health care providers. Critics allege that the treatment of women can be deficient, even dangerous during crisis pregnancies, in Catholic hospitals, as they are guided by the ethical and religious guidelines for Catholic health services issued by the State Conference of Catholic Bishops. -United.

In recent coverage, a National Public Radio reporter who “grew up Catholic” was surprised to find that a tubal ligation, a sterilization procedure, was not offered at the Catholic hospital where she gave birth; a New York Times opinion piece in February, anticipating the Dobbs decision, suggested substandard care in the emergency room of a New York Catholic hospital based on the author’s harrowing experience in 2003. In an example of the form of critical coverage, a report from October . 11 in The Washington Post asserts that the Dobbs decision “reveals the growing influence of Catholic health care systems and their restrictions on reproductive services.”

“But honestly, nothing has changed. It’s always been the Catholic way [health networks] provided care in their community. It’s not like we did anything different.

“They’ve been trying to reach us for a long time, and now they’re using Dobbs,” Sister Haddad said. “But honestly, nothing has changed. It’s always been the Catholic way [health networks] provided care in their community. It’s not like we did anything different.

Sister Haddad acknowledges that some services simply cannot be available in Catholic institutions, including elective abortions, sterilization procedures, contraceptive services, and sex reassignment therapies and surgeries. But, she argues, these restrictions do not mean that Catholic institutions cannot adequately care for women, especially women in crisis.

She points out that the DREs so often attacked by critics of Catholic health providers do not prevent therapeutic pregnancy terminations or other important interventions when a pregnant woman’s health or life is threatened. Sometimes crises emerge that will require interventions that will mean “the abortion of a fetus in order to save the life of the mother,” Sister Haddad said. “It’s not unusual. And that is acceptable,” according to ethical and religious guidelines used by Catholic hospitals.

She described the DREs as guidelines, not dictates, “for physicians and clinicians to say, ‘How are we going to react in situations to ensure the dignity of the person.'” She added: “The health of the mother is paramount.”

Sister Haddad wonders why any fair observer should be surprised to find that Catholic institutions adhere to Catholic teaching on abortion and contraception.

Beyond challenging erroneous assumptions about treatment, she wonders why any righteous observer should be surprised to find that Catholic institutions adhere to Catholic teaching on abortion and contraception. “The society around us changes and, at specific times, [criticism] is bubbling, but we have always maintained that sense of integrity in word and deed,” Sister Haddad said. “It’s the care we provide because it’s who we are, and we don’t shy away from it.”

There’s a lot of talk these days about personal freedom, she said. “It’s a matter of religion; it is a matter of freedom; it’s about ‘my freedom and [that] I should be able to do whatever I want.

“Well, if we talk about freedom, there is also religious freedom; it’s the Bill of Rights… why the country was founded. Now, she said, “we need to talk about how the religious organizations that serve our communities continue to operate in this environment.”

The issue of the lack of elective abortions and other services in Catholic hospitals has resurfaced, she believes, in part because of the confusion that emerged in the wake of the Dobbs decision. Ironically, in some cases, Catholic health providers themselves are troubled by the same lack of clarity and anxiety about accountability as physicians and clinicians in secular settings regarding the treatment of women in pregnancy crisis.

“DREs are not restrictive,” Sister Haddad said. “They allow things to happen that some states prohibit right now. And that’s going to be a problem for all of us.

“DREs are not restrictive,” Sister Haddad said. “They allow things to happen that some states prohibit right now. And that’s going to be a problem for all of us. Brian Reardon, a CHA spokesperson, said the association’s advocacy committee will continue to monitor new state abortion laws and provide guidance to its members on their clinical impact.

Reardon pointed out that critical assessments presented in the media are generally based on anecdotal reports and cannot cite any peer-reviewed studies that document shortcomings in the performance of Catholic institutions. A 2016 study by the National Bureau of Economic Research unsurprisingly found substantial decreases in sterilization procedures in Catholic institutions, but few signs of concern about standards of care.

“We find evidence,” the authors concluded, “that Catholic property [of hospitals] is actually associated with a reduction in miscarriages that involve a complication, suggesting that anecdotal accounts may not be indicative of a widespread pattern.

Many communities that secular critics complain about are now “dominated” by Catholic health facilities would have no health services had Catholic institutions not intervened.

“Catholic hospitals operating in the United States are accredited and held to the same standards as non-Catholic hospitals,” Reardon said in an email. “In tragic situations where a mother suffers an urgent and life-threatening condition during pregnancy, Catholic health clinicians provide medically indicated treatment, even if it poses a threat to the unborn child or may result in death. involuntary death of the child. For example, the treatment of an ectopic pregnancy or a uterine infection are both clinically and ethically required.

Much has also been said in the secular press about Catholic healthcare facilities claiming greater market share in cities and regions across the United States as other facilities close or pull out. Sister Haddad considers this criticism illogical and unfair.

Catholic orders did not found health services in the 19th and 20th centuries with the aim of “capturing market share,” she points out. “They opened hospitals and other health services because there was a dire need among communities that were otherwise unserved,” she said. “It continues to motivate Catholic institutions to this day.”

Many communities that secular critics complain about are now “dominated” by Catholic health facilities would have no health services had Catholic institutions not stepped in when other health care providers were unwilling. to do so or after previous institutions abandoned communities that had not proved strong enough markets, she explained.

“We have a long and distinguished history of providing care in communities where no one wants to go and no one wants to stay. This country would be in dire straits without Catholic health care.

Ongoing challenges remain from longtime antagonists like the American Civil Liberties Union and Community Catalyst — which absorbed the Merger Watch campaign against the consolidation of hospitals into Catholic networks — who appear to oppose the notion completely. even health care institutions guided by Catholic ethics. And more recent challenges, such as the Biden administration’s emphasis on protecting abortion services and proposed regulations requiring transgender care, have surfaced, but Sister Haddad remains convinced that Catholic health-care providers can weather the impending cultural and bureaucratic storms.

“I look back at what Catholic health care has provided to the people of this country for years, and I think it would be unconscionable for any administration to basically ban Catholic hospitals from operating and close their doors,” she said.

“We have a pretty large footprint,” Sister Haddad said, noting that “in an acute care setting, one in seven people are served by Catholic health care.”

“And we have a long and distinguished history of providing care in communities where no one wants to go and no one wants to stay. This country would be in dire straits without Catholic health care. I think people are smart enough in Washington not to let that happen.

Absorbing and adapting to ongoing criticism is only part of what it means to be in the contemporary hospital industry, Sister Haddad said, “part of what is needed for us to continue to serve in this country. We have to figure out how to work in this environment.

The sisters who founded the institutions that make up the CHA have often faced far worse in the past, she pointed out. “If we think we’re being criticized today,” she said with a laugh, “they were chased out of Dodge by a shotgun.”

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