PZ warns of Catholic takeovers of hospitals, and links to an article in The Stranger, so I’m reading that article, and oh what do you know, what happened to Savita Halappanavar could happen right here in Seattle, too. I knew that, I knew it could happen all over the US, but The Stranger gives particulars.
But cases like Halappanavar’s exist in Washington State. In fact, they’ve happened right here in Seattle. “I was past 24 weeks when doctors at Swedish told me I was miscarrying,” explains the woman sitting across from me at the coffee shop. We’ll call her Mary. She’s asked to remain anonymous to maintain her privacy, but like Halappanavar, Mary is a thirtysomething professional who was eager to start a family with her husband. So they got pregnant the old-fashioned, church- approved way: missionary style, after marriage. Life was swell, and the ultrasounds looked good. And then Mary awoke in pain last year; there was blood. She was checked into Swedish Medical Center, Seattle’s largest nonprofit health-care provider. But unbeknownst to Mary, last year the hospital formed an alliance with Providence, a Washington-based Catholic institution that operates 32 hospitals in Alaska, California, Montana, Oregon, and Washington. Per their new relationship, Swedish agreed to stop performing abortions except in emergency situations—you know, like when a woman’s life is at risk…
During Mary’s Swedish visit last year, “They said that they couldn’t save the fetus but it still had a heartbeat, so there was nothing they could do. They had to wait for the heartbeat to stop.”
Mary says she demanded an abortion but was basically told her options were to “wait for nature to take its course” or unhook herself, crawl out of bed, and find another hospital. “It was a nightmare,” she says. “It still is.”
At Swedish hospital!! That’s a big name around here, a big respected name. I certainly don’t think of it as a Catholic hospital, where abortions are denied even during a miscarriage. And it’s not a Catholic hospital, but that doesn’t matter, because for some fuck unknown reason it agreed to follow Catholic rules.
When Swedish entered into its new partnership with Providence and agreed to stop providing abortion services except in emergency instances, the administration took a proactive and somewhat admirable step: They pushed Planned Parenthood to open a clinic in an adjoining medical tower. That clinic, which is accessible by a breezeway, functions like any other Planned Parenthood clinic, offering everything from STD testing, abortion services, and sexual education to in-office female sterilization and vasectomies. “It was important to us that women continue to have the same access to services and not feel ostracized,” Charbonneau says. “But we wouldn’t enter into any deal with Swedish that would leave women coming into the ER in any kind of trouble. They have a commitment to me, in writing, that there will be no women getting hurt and no women dying.”
Charbonneau says that Swedish has kept its word and has performed emergency abortions in its hospital.
Well isn’t that just enormously big of them, but what the hell are they doing agreeing to stop providing abortion services in the first place?! What are they doing letting Providence – a Catholic hospital-mafia – set the rules?
Catholic institutions across the nation are merging with secular hospitals, clinics, and even small private practices at an unprecedented rate. Optimists explain that the consolidation and shared infrastructure help reduce costs. Pessimists point out that the aggressive mergers come at a time when Catholic bishops are exerting and expanding their authority. “I see it as a conscious effort to achieve through the private market what they failed to achieve through the courts or at the ballot box,” says Monica Harrington, a San Juan Island resident who’s spent the last year fighting a Catholic hospital in her town.
And not just the private market, but the private market that gets to stick its claws in whether you live or die. This is a fucking outrage.
And they deny choice in dying, too, and in some counties in Western Washington they already control the whole ballgame.
It is an outrage.