After Roe v. Wade was decided in 1973 and abortion access guaranteed in every state (in the United States), Congress enshrined conscience protections. The recognition, then, was that health professionals and hospitals had legitimate reasons to object to abortion.
But in the decades that followed, abortion fanatics pushed to re-frame principled non-involvement in abortion and other “reproductive services” as a refusal of basic care. They have made considerable headway — and have gained momentum, most recently, in response to the Court’s overturning Roe in Dobbs v. Jackson and the growing success of Catholic hospitals.
Some see this as a problem. In 2020, MergerWatch warned that “as Catholic health systems expand and strengthen, we are witnessing a ‘snowball effect’” that “expands religious restrictions to more and more hospitals and, increasingly, to locations outside of the hospital where people seek care.”
A recent article in the Washington Post expressed similar concerns, all the while acknowledging that “acquisition by a Catholic health system has, at times, kept a town’s only hospital from closing.”
Sharing the Post’s article on Twitter, Jill Filipovic, an author and abortion-rights activist, wrote that: “If Catholic hospitals refuse to offer a basic standard of reproductive care, they should not be in business — and certainly shouldn’t be getting government resources or tax breaks.”
Though abandoned by many clinicians, Catholic health-care professionals still operate under the principle of “first, do no harm.” The only restrictions on medical interventions set in place by Catholic hospitals are for those done to impair or destroy healthy bodily functioning — which are typically performed for non-medical reasons.
For instance, contraception and sterilization (for contraceptive purposes) aren’t medically necessary because fertility isn’t a disease. In fact, periods of infertility occur naturally in women’s cycles anyway, which more women are seeking to educate themselves about to avoid the unwelcome (and under-discussed) side effects of hormonal contraception.
Abortion, meanwhile, ends a life and leaves a lasting mark on another. Abortion is not medically necessary, but socially desirable. Abortion advocates know this, of course, which is why they attempt to conflate abortions with truly necessary treatments pertaining to miscarriage and ectopic pregnancies — as if pro-life doctors are so incompetent that they don’t know the difference.
“Religious doctrine restricts access to abortion and birth control and limits treatment options for miscarriages and ectopic pregnancies,” the Washington Post piece warned.
The ACLU is more explicitly mendacious, claiming that “many Catholic hospitals across this country are withholding emergency care from patients who are in the midst of a miscarriage or experiencing other pregnancy complications.” This is a lie, as Alexandra DeSanctis has explained.
“Gender affirmation” — the chemical and surgical disfigurement of a person’s sexed body — also cannot be classified as health care. Incidentally, here is where Catholics are most likely to find non-Catholic allies.
As my colleague Michael Brendan Dougherty wrote recently, “Some of us, looking into what T is all about, have seen the surgical scars of double mastectomies on children. We’ve read the accounts of surgically made facsimiles of genitalia that make it not only impossible to procreate, but difficult, painful, and embarrassing to urinate.”
Michael notes that the transgender medical craze is “inspiring people who never thought of themselves as pious, or religious, or aligned with the Right at all to suddenly brace themselves to stand in front of these young people and protect them from this iconoclasm in the flesh.
They feel that gratitude for our bodies, for who we are, is one of the treasures of this life. Gratitude aimed where? They are finding their way back to the very first question: Who made you?”
Without Congress changing the laws around conscience protections, there is a limit to what the federal government can do to force hospitals and health-care providers to participate in so-called “reproductive” and “gender-affirming” care. But that hasn’t stopped them from trying.
In April, the Biden administration’s Department of Health and Human Services proposed a rule change that would twist the non-discrimination provision of the Affordable Care Act to do just that.
We’ve seen similar antics from Democrats before. In May 2016, the Obama administration issued its “transgender mandate,” requiring health-care providers to participate in gender-transition procedures.
Nine states, multiple religious organizations, and an association of more than 19,000 health-care providers challenged the mandate in two federal courts. The courts found the mandate to be unlawful, defending health-care workers’ freedom to exercise their own conscience and professional judgment.
In response to progressives’ post-Dobbs hysteria, Biden issued executive orders calling the lack of abortion access across the country a “healthcare crisis.”
But the true crisis is social and moral. Catholic hospitals continue to be a source of healing and hope for millions of Americans, as do Catholic charities serving women in crisis.
A society so committed to the mutilation, manipulation, and destruction of human life that it would shut down successful hospitals and disqualify competent clinicians for following their consciences has gone terribly wrong.