There has been another attack on a Planned Parenthood clinic–this time, in Colorado. I’ve never quite understood how ostensibly “pro life” men (and they are almost always white Christian men) justify killing for life, but however they understand their Deities to compel these acts of domestic terrorism, their incidence has been growing since the release of the doctored Planned Parenthood tapes.
Ironically, these murderous attacks are far less effective at limiting abortions than the considerably more mundane and seemingly inexorable consolidation of hospitals around the country.
For example, the experience of women needing medical care in Michigan is increasingly being replicated throughout the U.S.
In October, the ACLU and the ACLU of Michigan filed a federal lawsuit on behalf of their members against Trinity Health Corporation, one of the largest Catholic health systems in the country, for its repeated and systematic failure to provide women experiencing pregnancy complications with appropriate emergency abortions as required by federal law.
In response to the lawsuit, the hospital submitted a brief arguing that state and federal law allow Trinity to “refuse to allow abortions to be performed on hospital premises,” in the context of emergency miscarriage treatment when the woman’s life or health is at risk.
Trinity is legally exempt from having to perform elective abortions. But emergency situations such as those that triggered the ACLU’s lawsuit are another matter; indeed, refusing to provide emergency care in these situations is medical malpractice. (I couldn’t find any information in a cursory search, but I would be surprised if doctors refusing to adhere to a medical standard of care in such situations aren’t being sued.)
The policy question is simple, although the appropriate resolution is anything but.
Virtually all hospitals depend for their existence upon federal dollars. Those dollars come from taxpayers of all religions and none. Are such institutions entitled to deny people medically appropriate care on the basis of their own religious doctrine? The question is gaining urgency as more and more of the nation’s hospitals have become part of Catholic health-care systems–currently, 10 of the 25 largest hospital systems in the U.S. are Catholic. As the ACLU’s Reproductive Rights project newsletter noted
We know, for example, that the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, which sets the rules for all Catholic hospitals, has said that its hospitals should let a woman die rather provide an emergency abortion. The bishops made their policy crystal-clear when a Catholic hospital in Phoenix defied the bishops’ rules and saved a woman’s life by providing an abortion. The bishops excommunicated a nun who was on the committee that approved the abortion, and the hospital was stripped of its Catholic status.
There are plenty of doctrinal questions raised by such examples, but those are matters for internal Catholic debate. The question for the rest of us is the same question that is raised in other conflicts pitting civic equality and access to public services against the religious beliefs of people claiming their faith exempts them from treating others as they would wish to be treated–as autonomous persons entitled to make their own moral decisions.
That question is: at what point do the obligations of citizenship in a diverse nation that celebrates civic equality override the “sincerely held religious beliefs”of those who believe they are entitled to be more equal than others?