Catholic Hospitals Should Stop Playing God

Is a hospital more like a public utility or more like a car dealership?

As long as you pay your bill, the Water Department supplies you with water whether it likes what you do with it or not. If the Water Department refuses to supply, say, Jews or Blacks, these people can’t simply take their business elsewhere.

So why is it legal for certain hospitals to discriminate against some people because of “religious beliefs” if they’re not allowed to discriminate based on inconvenience, discomfort, or hate?

California’s Seton Medical Center refused Charlene Hastings breast enlargement surgery because, said a surgical coordinator, “God made you a man.” (Hastings has previously had sex reassignment surgery elsewhere, and is legally a woman.) Using this logic, the hospital should also refuse to provide anyone chemotherapy because “God gave you cancer.”

If you want to talk about a health-care crisis, focus on the fact that hospitals affiliated with the Catholic Church are the nation’s largest group of non-profit (i.e., taxpayer-supported) medical facilities. They operate some 600 hospitals, almost 400 nursing homes, and dozens of healthcare systems.

If their only sin were their boring lobby decor it wouldn’t matter, but the Church intends to limit the health care options in the communities they’re supposed to serve. Don’t take my word for it—take theirs.

These publicly-supported medical facilities actually forbid their employees from providing certain health care and medical information. If a rape victim comes crawling to their door, doctors are forbidden from mentioning the existence of emergency contraception, much less prescribing the medication. If a pre-marriage physical reveals that someone has herpes or AIDS, nurses are forbidden to discuss how he or she can use condoms to protect their new spouse from the disease.

And it’s getting worse, as affiliates of the Catholic Church are buying local hospitals across America. Between 1990-1998, 127 secular hospitals merged with church-run facilities. Nearly half of the merged hospitals immediately terminated some or all reproductive services.

Since the Catholic Church is obsessed with sexuality, their hospitals are obsessed with sexual health care. If their billion-dollar corporation wants to operate grocery stores, they are free to stock their shelves however their medieval prejudices dictate. But if they want the privileges and status of operating public institutions, they should be required to serve the public—regardless of race, gender, and medical needs.

The Church’s claim to “freedom of religion” inevitably translates into an aggressive demand to limit others’ sexual expression and sexual rights. It’s only because Americans have been so traumatized about their own sexuality that they tolerate this oppression.

Oh, the name of the Catholic order running the hospital that refused Hastings medical care? The Daughters of Charity.


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