CNA—A bill threatens to ban University of California health systems from partnering with institutions that follow Catholic ethics, prompting concern ideological motives on abortion and LGBT issues will damage longtime partnerships and limit medical care access.
An organization of Catholic hospitals has defended its efforts to adhere to Catholic ethics, but also defend the partnership on the ground that they or their network hospitals provide some procedures related to gender transitioning and have won recognition from major LGBT groups.
“Currently there are many, many, many, contracts with the University of California and Catholic healthcare,” Edward Dolejsi, interim executive director of the California Catholic Conference, told CNA. “Primarily because we provide services in a variety of underserved communities, and the University of California wants access to those communities and wants to train their physicians in those communities.”
Dolejsi said Catholic institutions are “proud” to partner with the university system.
“But as always if you’re working at one of our facilities, we follow the (Catholic bishops’) ethical and religious directives,” he said. “We do not allow abortions, elective sterilizations, transgender surgeries etc. in those healthcare facilities.”
The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Ethical and Religious Directives, last revised in 2018, aim to ensure ethical treatment at Catholic hospitals.
However, prospective state legislation called the “Equitable and Inclusive University of California Healthcare Act” would require the University of California health system to renegotiate agreements with Catholic hospitals. The hospitals would be forced to allow its staff to provide all care they deem medically necessary or to end its links to the state university medical system. The proposal, numbered Senate Bill 379, is under consideration in the California Senate.
A spokesman for bill sponsor Sen. Scott Weiner, D-San Francisco, told an LGBT California publication that partnering with institutions like Catholic ones violates California standards.
“It is unacceptable to subject patients to discriminatory and harmful restrictions on the types of care they can receive, including reproductive and LGBTQ-inclusive care,” the spokesman said. “California law recognizes reproductive healthcare, including abortion, as basic healthcare. California state law restricts public health entities from preferring one pregnancy outcome over another, and prohibits discrimination against transgender patients seeking gender-affirming care. Despite existing law, people in California are still being denied these very critical healthcare services.”
Dolejsi said the controversy is “primary ideological.” Passage of the bill would end up limiting medical access for many Californians, particularly the poor and struggling. It would also limit physicians’ abilities to practice or train.
“That’s always the challenge here: do you want to provide services and resources in a quality way for all the people of California or do you want to expand an ideology?” Dolejsi asked. He suggested that Catholic health care systems are “probably one of the larger providers of medical services in California.”