By SR. CAROL KEEHAN, DC
CHA president and chief executive officer
Nearly 1 million people work in Catholic health care every day. Many, if not most, choose their workplace because they believe in the mission of providing high-quality, compassionate care for everyone, especially those who are vulnerable.
Physicians, nurses, administrators and others who have devoted their lives and careers to this mission have been understandably troubled by a recent American Civil Liberties Union/ MergerWatch report ominously entitled, "Miscarriage of Medicine: The Growth of Catholic Hospitals and the Threat to Reproductive Health Care," published late last year. The ACLU report made irresponsible and dishonest claims about the safety of Catholic hospitals for women. For those people who actually work in Catholic hospitals and know how women and infants are treated, the report did not reflect reality and was deeply offensive.
In addition to issuing the report, the ACLU filed a lawsuit against the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops on behalf of a pregnant woman treated in a Catholic hospital. The suit alleges that the Ethical and Religious Directives for Catholic Health Care Services (promulgated by the bishops) have caused trauma and harm to pregnant women.
Some members of the media, meanwhile, grabbed onto the allegations and reported them without even basic fact-checking.
The fact is that Catholic hospitals have provided outstanding care to mothers and infants for centuries. The quality and safety of Catholic health care matches or exceeds the care delivered in any type of facility. Our hospitals work constantly to improve maternal and infant health outcomes. They reach out deliberately to vulnerable and diverse populations. Many operate fixed location or mobile prenatal care clinics to reach medically underserved, poor women and help ensure their pregnancies are healthy and their babies have a healthy start.
Knowing the ministry's record of caring for women and infants is a stellar one, CHA and some of its members have rightly been vocal in defending their organizations and their unwavering commitment to meeting the best standard of care in every situation. Included on this page are two responses offered by Catholic health care leaders to misleading coverage. The first is my response to a New York Times editorial endorsing the ACLU's conclusions. The second is a rebuttal letter to Modern Healthcare signed by the chief executives of four Catholic health systems based in California challenging the fear-mongering ACLU report and Modern Healthcare's story, which treats the report as if it were based on facts rather than fictitious allegations.
In the coming weeks and months, CHA will work with our members across the country to tell the real story of Catholic health care and to rebut spurious charges.
Every generation or so, an individual or group sets its sights on Catholic health care, determined for various reasons to tarnish our record and mislead the public about what goes on in our hospitals. These kinds of broad-brush allegations typically fade away because there is no truth or substance to them.
I am confident that the ACLU's latest efforts to malign us on the basis of our religious beliefs will face a similar fate for one simple reason: Catholic health care is safe, effective, clinically appropriate, compassionate and always concerned with protecting the health and dignity of every person who walks through our doors — man or woman, infant or elderly, rich or poor. This is who we are.
Copyright © 2014 by the Catholic Health Association
of the United States
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