An Emerging Threat to Religious Liberty

WACatholicHospitalsA trend is developing across the country of secular hospitals merging with Catholic hospitals, as the New York Times recently reported. The latest state to see a wave of completed and proposed mergers is Washington, one of the most pro-abortion states in America. Abortion activists there are up in arms because of what they see as a threat to abortion access, especially in rural areas of the state. If the abortion lobby gets its way, we could see a new threat to religious liberty in the form of litigation or legislation forcing Catholic hospitals to perform abortions and other life-destroying practices.

Catholic hospitals, which operate under the direction of their local bishops and serve one out of every six patients in America, must adhere to Ethical and Religious Directives for Catholic Healthcare Services put forth by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. This prohibits any practice that violates Catholic teaching, including abortion, sterilization, contraceptives, and assisted suicide.

In today’s healthcare industry, most hospitals are faced with utilitarian decisions about whose life is more valuable, a development accelerated due to the impending implementation of Obamacare. We’re moving into a culture of death where healthcare for the elderly will be rationed to save costs and the abortion and infanticide of disabled babies will be promoted as the humane way to reduce healthcare costs. The quality of life ethic is being pushed by the medical community wherein the value of human life lies in its functionality. But in a Catholic hospital, all life is valuable.

Catholic hospitals are unique because they unite traditional healthcare services with the church’s mission to serve the poor and promote the sanctity of all human life. Because of their commitment to serving every human being, they are able to go into poor and rural areas where secular and public hospitals do not operate. This is evident from the very fact that such hospitals are merging with their Catholic partners in these regions.

But for Catholic hospitals to continue to operate in such a way, they must be allowed to freely practice their faith. To force Catholic hospitals to provide abortions would be like forcing mosques to serve pork, or Quakers to enlist in the military.

The first amendment guarantees the right of every American to the “free exercise” of his or her religion, but we have seen that ignored before by the Obama administration. And Congress has upheld that right in the Hyde–Weldon Conscience Protection Amendment, which protects physicians, nurses, hospitals and health insurance companies from being forced to commit, fund, cover or refer for abortions by the federal or any state government.

However, that amendment has to be approved every year and it will only take one pro-abortion Congressional majority to end it. We must be proactive in educating our friends, our neighbors and our fellow parishioners on the basic fact that abortion and assisted suicide are not healthcare. In fact, they are the antithesis of healthcare.

The Catholic Church is not going to back down on its commitment to the dignity and sanctity of all human life. The hospitals will be shut down, or risk losing the financial benefit of affiliation with the Church, before that happens. Then, in those rural areas that are served exclusively by Catholic hospitals, there will be no healthcare at all. There will be nothing for those patients who need immediate, true emergency care. All because of the obstinacy of abortion advocates who value the destruction of life over the saving of it.