The publicly-funded University of Connecticut Medical Center has made plans to join with Saint Francis Hospital and Medical Center, a Catholic hospital, to provide a center for out-patient surgery. The center will not provide abortions or sterilization for women, however. Connecticut’s Attorney General Richard Blumenthal has joined an increasing number of people in arguing that the limit on to treatment for women, in order to abide by the tenants of the Roman Catholic Church, is unacceptable. Several hospital trustees also questioned the ban. One trustee, Richard Treibick commented, “How can we as a secular institution be involved in something that basically violates gender equity? How can we enter in an agreement with a religious entity and be bound by their rules? So what are we doing here?”
University officials claim that if they built the center without the Catholic Church, they would lose a significant share of customers and thus any small profit margin they hoped to accumulate. The board has tabled a vote on whether or not to approve the merger. The Health Department must also decide whether a medical need for the new center exists. Anne Stanback, executive director of the Connecticut Women’s Education and Legal Fund, commented on the merger, “What this means in simple terms is that women’s access to a full range of legal reproductive health services has been sacrificed for the sake of a business deal.”
According to a 1995 study conducted by the group Catholics for a Free Choice, Catholic Churches have been involved in over 57 mergers or affiliations since 1990. In at least ten of those instances, the mergers resulted in the elimination of reproductive health services, like abortion, tubal ligation and birth-control counseling.