I got a bit of a reality check this week. I needed to make an appointment with an OB/Gyn for a procedure my regular physician couldn’t do. I was annoyed with an unprofessional behavior by the receptionist at this doctor’s office and wanted to look into other doctors that might be an option. So, I looked through the directory on my insurance company’s page. What I discovered in this search was quite a bit beyond disturbing. Shy of driving all the way into either Seattle or Kirkland (both over 60 miles from where I live), the office my doctor referred me to is one of only two OB/Gyn clinic/hospital that is not owned by the Catholic church. Even Swedish has recently been bought into by the church, though they are stating that the church is allowing them to remain secular in their treatment (though I am sure that will change rapidly). They are also attempting to buy into UW medicine.
Now granted, I am past my childbearing period of life, so I don’t personally have need of birth control or abortion services. But, I am a woman and that makes this a vital issue to me. I do not believe that my medical care should be governed by a religious doctrine I don’t believe in and has absolutely no merit in science or human rights for that matter. And I also understand that there are far more issues than just birth control and abortion and many fertility treatments, though those two would be enough for me to want to take up the sword and do battle over.
We are in a time when many efforts are underway across the country to curtail and block women’s access to reproductive health options. One of the more common attempts being waged right now is the demand that an abortion clinic have admitting rights to a hospital within a specified radius. Even if such a demand had a merit based in medical science or evidence of a need, which there isn’t, such an admitting right would be denied by any religious owned hospital. I am lucky that there is ONE, count them ONE hospital in a 50 mile radius that is not owned by the Catholic Church. Most of these hospitals have been purchased by this church in the last handful of years. Funny how that works out, doesn’t it?
The Catholic church has made a particular focus on buying up hospitals and clinics in areas that have a tolerant and diverse population that is not about to pass legislation limiting a woman’s access to reproductive services nor a gay’s right to marriage and the rights that go with that. The solution? Buy the clinics where you can impose the Bishop’s Directives on the staff and the treatment. Its a fun little read. Guaranteed to even set the hair on many Christians, nay, even the Catholics on end when they realize how little control they have over their bodies when in the hands of these people (estimated 99% of married Catholic women have used birth control). You can read it here.
And somehow, in allowing these buy ups to happen, we have once again fallen into the pit of forgetting history. There was a time when medicine (such as it was then) was under the jurisdiction and iron thumb of the church. The orphanages as well. So long as you were born of “legitimate” parents.
“And in general, the only provision for illegitimate babies was the parish poorhouses or, from 1722, the workhouses where they frequently died of neglect. Mortality rates were extremely high: over 74% of children born in London died before they were five. In workhouses the death rate increased to over 90%.”
Oh, but that was ancient history, you say. (actually not all that ancient, but the really ancient history is far more violent). But the church has changed and is now a source of goodness and charity and compassion you say? Remember Mother Teresa, you say? Alas, she has been shown to be as much of a sham as the rest of the church’s doings. Seems she collected millions and millions in charitable donations to allow the patients in her charge to die in suffering and squalor. But, she lived as they did, you say. No, she did not. When she needed medical care, she got the best there
Then we have the church’s white slavery of young girls. The Magdalene Laundries. Again, not so ancient history. Maybe this is what they have in mind when they are taking over the women’s clinics, hospitals and other medical establishments. They are getting tired of doing their own dirty laundry.
“The Good Shepherd Sisters, a Roman Catholic religious institute for women, is one of the orders being charged with the enslavement and abuse of thousands of women in what are called “Magdalene Laundries.” Last one closing in 1996”
Now, I don’t care what a person believes. But, I do care when they bully their way into my access to proper medical care and impose their archaic and ignorant beliefs on what treatments I may or may not be allowed to receive. I take huge issue with their buying up hospitals for what I believe to be the sole purpose of barring me and other women and men for that matter from accessing the care we have a right to. Care our insurance gives us the coverage for.
No, I am not of child bearing years and that part does not affect me personally. But, it does affect my daughter, my friends and their children. Not only does their doctrine prohibit abortion and contraception, it also prohibits IVF and any fertility treatment that doesn’t include sexual intercourse. Which really baffles me coming from a church whose priests and nuns take a vow of celibacy. Not that the priests actually hold to that, unless you disallow it as sex if it involves raping young children.
But, I also live in a state that should I become terminally ill, I have the legal right to have a doctor issue me a lethal dose of medication if I want to end my suffering. Their “doctrine” will not allow that doctor to grant me my legal rights that were voted in. Plus, they have the right to decide if the plug is pulled. Their doctrine does not allow for research with stem cells, fetal tissues. Their doctrine does not allow for science. Their doctrine does not allow for progress. Their doctrine will take us back to leeches and bloodletting (and yes, I know there are some instances where those are used in modern medicine now).
All this coming from a church who claims a “moral high ground” and says their concern is to save lives. A church who when they held the hospitals and orphanages in their control, threw out orphans into the street if their parents weren’t married. Imprisoned young women in sweatshop slavery if they got pregnant. Ran hospitals for the dying where they didn’t even offer them pain relieving medicine or any comforts. Why????? Because they believe suffering brings one closer to “God”. Ya know? I really don’t want to be close to something that wants me to suffer like that first and I really don’t understand why anyone would.
I am the mother of a gay son. A son who is one of the most amazing blessings I have had in my life. A son who deserves to be treated with the same respect, the same dignity, the same relevance as anyone else. There is no doubt in my mind that it is only a matter of time until they refuse him and his friends to be at their partner’s dying bedside because it is against their beliefs. Sooner if one of the Rabid Republicans takes office this election. Add to that their refusing to offer medical aid to the LGBT community. If they will turn away children born out of wedlock, they will turn away gays. They have already begun to petition for this “right”.
Women fought for the right to vote, the right to have control over our bodies, the right to make choices. Gays have also fought for such rights. People of color, of different religions, no religion have fought for the right to live free and independent lives. To have reasonable choices available.
When a hospital enters the private sector, accepts patients of different faiths, accepts their insurance payments, the government grants and monies allotted by the government, they are obligated to set aside their religious beliefs. They must serve the people according to their patient’s beliefs. Or they must withdraw from the hospitals that serve us.
We have the right to be treated within the law, within our wishes and understanding of our bodies. We have the right to be treated with science, not superstition. We have fought for those rights and earned them. Alas, the rights aren’t worth the paper they are written on when there are those that can bar the doors.
How can these religious/secular hospital mergers affect patients?
When secular (non-religious) community hospitals merge with religiously-sponsored hospitals and agree to adopt religious restrictions, patients can suddenly discover they have lost access to vital reproductive health care services and may encounter interference with the ability to make decisions about end-of-life care.
Under the directives, the reality for women who find themselves at a Catholic hospital means they have:
- No access to abortion—even in cases of rape or incest (Directive 45)
- No access to in-vitro fertilization (Directives 37, 38, 39)
- No access to contraception (Directive 52)
- No treatment for ectopic pregnancy (Directive 48)
- None of the benefits of embryonic stem-cell research (Directive 51)
- No respect for their advance medical directives (Directive 24)
The sole exception to the ban on contraception falls under Directive 36, which only allows the provision of emergency contraception (EC) in cases of sexual assault when it can be proven that pregnancy has not occurred. This creates an unnecessary restriction, as EC does not interfere with the implantation of a fertilized egg. Evidence also suggests that many Catholic hospitals rarely provide EC even under the circumstances approved by the directives. A 2006 study found that 35 percent of Catholic hospitals did not provide EC under any circumstances, while 47 percent refused to provide referrals to hospitals that did. Of those that provided referrals, only 47 percent of these led to a hospital that actually provided EC.