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Albany, NY Hospital Merger Could Restrict Access to Abortion

State-mandated changes at three Albany, NY-area hospitals could limit women’s access to reproductive care. Schenectady County’s Ellis Hospital may not provide abortion services after it takes over Bellevue Women’s Hospital, a non-profit specialty hospital in Niskayuna, and merges with St. Clare’s, a Catholic hospital that does not provide abortions or distribute contraceptives, the Times Union, a local paper, reports.

Joyce McGinnis, a gynecologist at Bellevue, told the Times Union that Ellis’ chief executive, James Connolley, said that Ellis is not obligated to perform abortions, so long as those services are available through another community facility. If Ellis decides to do away with abortions, however, then Mohawk Hudson’s Planned Parenthood will become the county’s sole abortion provider, a worrying possibility for reproductive health advocates who say that abortion services should be accessible through hospitals.

“Planned Parenthood is a wonderful provider of care for women, but it does not intend to be ‘ nor does it think it should be ‘ the full provider,” said JoAnn Smith, the president and CEO of Family Planning Advocates of New York State. “A woman in Schenectady or in any other locality needs a choice about where she’s going to seek [abortion] services. Some women have medical conditions which would mean that it would be better to have the abortion in a hospital ‘ issues related to diabetes or other care that you don’t think about being related to the reproductive health care.”

Planned Parenthood is prepared to take on an expanded role in the county, said Paul Drisgula, the CEO of Mohawk Hudson’s Planned Parenthood. “[But] we have no intention of growing our abortion care at the expense of a women’s right to choose her own physician,” he said. “Abortion services should be blended seamlessly into medical practices as they are in Planned Parenthood and not stigmatized by isolating those services.”

Sources:

The Times Union 8/17/07; Kaiser Daily Women's Health Policy Report 8/20/07, 7/23/07