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Catholic Hospitals Make Abortion The Only Thing They Won’t Allow

Robin Marty

When it comes to mergers with non-Catholic health systems, it appears abortion is the one rule they won't compromise on.

Residents have been in an uproar since Pennsylvania’s Abington Health announced it was merging with Holy Redeemer Health Systems. The new hospital, they said, would “fully comply with ethical and religious directives.”

In the face of criticism, however, they’ve “compromised,” and want to assure everyone that they simply won’t perform abortions.


In the statement issued Friday, Abington Health said it “will continue to provide contraceptive services and counseling, tubal ligations, and vasectomies.” Abington Reproductive Medicine, a prominent infertility practice affiliated with the hospital, will also continue as is.

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All of those services are forbidden under the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ ethical directives for Catholic health care facilities. In traditional mergers, the secular hospital agrees to abide by the Catholic rules.

[S]ome recent mergers around the country suggest dogma can take a backseat to the economic realities of new reimbursement methods, cost containment efforts, and health care reform.

MergerWatch, a New York City-based advocacy group that says it has helped to stop, undo or modify 59 mergers over 15 years, has followed several deals like Abington’s – in which the secular partner agreed to stop doing abortions but continued other “forbidden” medical services such as sterilizations.

When it comes to breaking their rules for sterlizations and IVF, Holy Redeemer is willing to be flexible. But terminating a pregnancy for medical reasons? That’s where they draw the line.

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