Report: Catholic hospitals across country performing sterilizations

Report: Catholic hospitals across country performing sterilizations February 20, 2012

From the Philadelphia Inquirer:

U.S. Catholic bishops have vowed to fight the Obama administration’s compromise on insurance coverage for contraception and sterilization, denouncing it as “coercive,” “insulting,” “unconstitutional,” “belligerent,” and “dangerous.”

Yet there is evidence the sterilization services the bishops oppose have been provided by many Catholic hospitals across the country, including a few in the Philadelphia area.

Some evidence comes from news reports about bishops cracking down. In Texas in 2008, for example, two hospitals were ordered to stop doing the sterilization surgery, called tubal ligation. In Oregon in 2010, a hospital that refused to stop lost its Catholic status.

Last year, however, a more scientific look at sterilization practices was published as a doctoral dissertation at Baylor University by Sandra Hapenney, a Catholic in Waco, Texas.

Using standardized hospital discharge data, she found that between 2007 and 2009, more than 20,000 women who gave birth at Catholic hospitals in New Jersey and six other states then had their “tubes tied.” Eighty-five hospitals – almost half of those providing obstetric services – were doing sterilizations to end fertility.

Among these were Our Lady of Lourdes Medical Center in Camden and Lourdes Medical Center of Burlington County in Willingboro, where Hapenney found that 282 women – 6 percent of those who gave birth – were sterilized in 2008 and 2009.

Catholic ecclesial and hospital authorities dismiss Hapenney’s study as incorrect, although they won’t discuss specifics.

For example, Bishop David M. O’Connell of the Trenton Diocese said in an e-mail that he had talked to hospital administrators and had “been assured that procedures at Lourdes Medical Center of Burlington County were in compliance.”

A spokesman for Camden Bishop Joseph Galante first said the cleric would “look into the issue,” then later deferred to Catholic Health East, the health system that operates both hospitals.

The system’s spokeswoman e-mailed: “We previously reviewed the data in Hapenney’s study and concluded at that time our facilities were in compliance.

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