Further Privatizing Private Spaces

If there is no public care, where does the public get care?

In some places — including big swaths of Western Washington — Catholic providers are becoming the only source of health care for an entire region. (Approximately8 percentof what the federal government calls “sole community hospitals” are Catholic.)

The dilemma is that Catholic hospitals — there are630 or so in the United States, representing 15 percent of all admissions every year — are not independent entities. They are bound by a 43-page document called theEthical and Religious Directives for Catholic Health Care Services, which have been around in some formsince 1921 and were last revised by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops in 2009.

The 72 directives explicitly ban abortion and sterilization. They restrict other types of care as well, including emergency contraception for rape victims (“It is not permissible… to initiate or to recommend treatments [for sexual assault] that have as their purpose or direct effect the removal, destruction, or interference with the implantation of a fertilized ovum”), in vitro fertilization and artificial insemination (“contrary to the covenant of marriage, the unity of the spouses, and the dignity proper to parents and the child”), surrogate pregnancy, and anything that remotely resembles assisted suicide (the bishops’ preferred term is “euthanasia”).

There are a large number of Catholic hospitals in the Chicago area as well, though thankfully still mixed in with private and public institutions. Still, as a person who has had reproductive health issues her entire life, the idea that I might be denied potentially life-saving care in an emergency just because the closest hospital was run by a religious order made me nervous.

We’ve come to accept privatization of all kinds of public services as just some kind of substitution: Your local hospital just has a new name! Your former public park is now a shopping mall! You can still go there and see your doctor, you can still walk around! But the rights and responsibilities of everyone change in those situations. Your religious hospital can choose to save your fetus’s life instead of yours. Your private mall can ban you from certain types of behavior within its spaces.

You ain’t the boss of it anymore. And your health is the kind of thing you want to be the boss of.


8 thoughts on “Further Privatizing Private Spaces

  1. It’s not just reproductive care – they blithely refuse to honor end of life directives. I’m the pull-the-plug person for my parents, and I’ve already told them I’m hauling their asses out of any mackerel smacker hospital. Fortunately, they too are mostly ex-mackerel, so it’s not a problem, and there are hospital choices in their area.

  2. Wow…liberal politics accompanied by nasty anti-catholic bigotry. The KKK would be so pleased to have you do their work for them.

  3. It has become a very serious problem in this area.
    Particularly for rape victims and pregnant women who must travel a significant distance to get proper care. There are three hospitals where women will not get the care they need and one where they will. Unless they do the research in advance they have no way of knowing this.

  4. I should have added that most ambulance attendants do know where women will get proper care, so that is a help.

  5. Show me where in the Constitution that corporations run by religious orders, as opposed to the orders themselves, have freedom-of-religion rights that trump the rights of their customers? Go on. I’ll wait.

  6. Also, David, that’s not “nasty anti-Catholic bigotry,” it’s calling a supposedly Christian group out on its own violation of Christ’s teachings. Grow up, son. The priests lied to you and there’s also no Santa Claus.

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