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Hospital Mergers Threaten Reproductive Health Care in Washington State

Hospital mergers don’t typically come to mind when thinking about threats to reproductive health.  But, because Catholic hospitals do not provide certain reproductive health services, including contraception, abortion, tubal ligation and vasectomies, a wave of mergers between secular (and even public) hospitals and Catholic affiliated hospitals in Washington state is doing just that.

If all of the proposed mergers in the state were to be completed, almost half of Washington’s hospital beds would be controlled by Catholic health systems. In fact, all of the beds in 10 of Washington’s 39 counties could be subject to religious restrictions, forcing residents to travel significant distances to find a secular hospital.  If the proposed merger between Harrison Medical Center and Franciscan Health Systems is completed, for example, residents in Bremerton would have to take an hour long ferry ride to get to the next closest acute care hospital.

This leaves people unable to access necessary reproductive care. A woman who has a Cesarean section and wants a tubal ligation would be have to either deliver her child at a hospital far from home or be forced to have two separate surgeries. And, this is all happening in a state that has strong protections for reproductive health care [PDF].  There is still time. Local and national advocates, including NWLC, are challenging these mergers and working to ensure that women have continued access to reproductive health care.


Here in Wyoming

With WY NARAL, I was ready to fight in Laramie, sitting in on our ONLY hospital's Board of Directors meeting because on the agenda was a discussion about a merger proposal from the Catholics (it was voted down).

I truly believe this is yet another back door attack on the rights of women in this country by misogynistic antichoice groups.

We must fight this tooth and nail—a young girl in South America has already been forced to die due to a denial of chemo on behalf of a zygote. Another, an Indian woman, has died in Ireland on behalf of a clump of cells, and a young woman, a mother of a one-year-old boy, now is facing the same death sentence because of an embryo. So much for "pro-life."

These attacks stealing the lives of women, real living human beings, are nothing short of murder, and are closer to us here in the states than most people realize. We must remember, too, that the Catholics' ridiculous stance on birth control will also be extended to men who will be denied vasectomies.

The latter, however, may be a silver lining in disguise, because when the attacks start to affect the male half of our population, maybe then something will be done to stop *all* of these so-called "pro-life" people.

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