Religious hospitals may have to accept abortionists

One pro-life strategy on the state level is to require abortion clinics to meet the standards of legitimate medical facilities and to require abortionists to have admitting privileges in area hospitals.  This exposes the medically shoddy standards of the abortion industry, forcing many abortuaries out of business.  But some of them are trying to comply.

But a federal law is on the books that would require Roman Catholic and other religiously-affiliated hospitals that take federal funds to accept doctors who perform abortions.  Ironically, the law is the Church Amendment, which prevents federal funding for the procedure, but also provides certain protections for abortionists.  After the jump, a story about how this issue–which will surely be litigated–has come to a head in Wisconsin.

From Hospitals can’t deny admitting privileges to abortion doctors, AG says, in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel:

Plans by three Catholic hospital systems in Wisconsin to deny admitting privileges to doctors who perform abortions would “be in active violation of federal law,” Attorney General J. B. Van Hollen’s Department of Justice said in a court filing last week.

Federal law “provides that hospitals accepting federal funds may not discriminate against a physician because that physician has participated in or refused to participate in abortions,” the state Justice Department said in its filing in federal court.

According to experts on federal law, if doctors can prove they were not granted privileges specifically because they perform the procedure, the hospital systems — Wheaton Franciscan Healthcare, Columbia St. Mary’s Health System and Hospital Sisters Health System — could lose federal dollars in the form of research and public health grants.

Doctors who perform abortions would be required to obtain privileges at hospitals within 30 miles of their clinics under a new law that has been blocked until at least November by a federal judge. Seven doctors who provide abortions in the state lack privileges, and at least four are applying for them at religiously affiliated hospitals, according to their employer, Planned Parenthood of Wisconsin.

The hospitals said they would not grant privileges to abortion providers, following confusion over their stance in federal court. In the abortion providers’ challenge to the law, their attorneys said the privileges requirement would be especially difficult to meet because a large proportion of Wisconsin hospitals are religiously affiliated and opposed to abortion.

But Matthew Lee, a doctor on the credentials committee at Wheaton Franciscan St. Joseph campus in Milwaukee, initially told the court he believed religiously affiliated hospitals in the state would be open to granting privileges to doctors who perform abortions.

One week later, the chief medical officer for Wheaton Franciscan said her organization would not grant privileges to abortion providers, suggesting that Lee might not have fully understood the hospital’s policies. A spokeswoman for Columbia St. Mary’s said her organization had the same policy and, days later, so did the president and chief executive officer of the Hospital Sisters system.

All three hospital systems cited their Catholic affiliations as the reason why they would deny privileges to abortion providers.

Responding to a Planned Parenthood attorney’s attempt to have the court note a Journal Sentinel article on Lee’s affidavit, attorneys with Van Hollen’s Department of Justice wrote, “The ‘fact’ suggested by this newspaper article — namely that the Wheaton Franciscan hospital system will deny privileges to any doctor who has participated in abortions…— is belied by federal law.”

The state was referring to the Church Amendments, federal statutes enacted after the Supreme Court affirmed a constitutional right to abortion in Roe vs. Wade in 1973. The laws are known for protecting federally funded hospitals and doctors from being required to participate in abortion or sterilization procedures. What is less widely understood, legal experts said, is that they also protect doctors who perform abortions, including in decisions about privileges.

About Gene Veith

Professor of Literature at Patrick Henry College, the Director of the Cranach Institute at Concordia Theological Seminary, a columnist for World Magazine and TableTalk, and the author of 18 books on different facets of Christianity & Culture.


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