In the sale of several Catholic hospitals to secular entities, the Catholic Church has imposed conditions of sale that stipulate a continued ban, sometimes indefinite, on healthcare options such as abortion previously forbidden under Catholic doctrine, according to a recent article in the Chicago Tribune. Under purchasing agreements, buyer hospitals adopt the church’s Ethical and Religious Directives, which include prohibitions on procedures such as abortions, sterilization, in-vitro fertilization, as well as any discussions regarding the proper use of condoms in reducing the risk of infection by HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases. In addition, many women, including rape victims, are denied information on emergency contraception. The condition of sale jeopardizes women’s reproductive rights, particularly for those who unsuspectingly enter hospitals with secular names. “I don’t see how religious restrictions are appropriate at a hospital that has no connection whatsoever with a religious entity,” said director Lois Uttley of MergerWatch, a group working to protect reproductive freedoms in newly secular hospitals.
In the first case nationwide surrounding this issue, California Attorney General Bill Lockyer last year forced Santa Marta Hospital in Los Angeles to remove its directives as a condition of its sale to Star Healthcare Group, saying “I will not allow Catholic health systems to impose their ethical principles on secular, for-profit business. I think that’s overreaching on their part,” according to the Tribune.