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Catholic Hospitals in Danger in Colorado

Government infringement into the operations of Catholic hospitals is not new. In both California and New York, long court battles have been fought seeking to exempt Catholic Hospitals from provisions requiring the dispensing of emergency contraception.

But legislators in Colorado are taking things even farther, and the very existence of Catholic Hospitals operating under Catholic principles is in real danger.

It all began when Sisters of Charity of Leavenworth Health System sought to buy out a stake in Exempla, Inc.—which owns two hospitals in the Denver area. Things progressed smoothly for months, and the deal was expected to be finished before the end of 2007.

However, in November of 2007, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists issued a position paper setting a new standard for pro-choice activists to demand. When the Catholic Archbishop, Charles Chaput, made clear that abortions and sterilizations will not be done at the newly acquired hospitals, he—and the deal—became targets of the pro-choice movement.

In addition to two different court cases that have been filed seeking to prevent the deal (one filed by the Colorado Center on Law and Policy, the other by the Exempla Hospital system), Kaiser Permanente issued a release that it may take its business away if the deal goes through.

If those attacks were not enough, the legislature is now involved. Three different bills seriously endanger the operation of Catholic hospitals in the state of Colorado.

One, HB 1173, will allow courts and the Attorney General to decide how a Catholic hospital uses its money. This bill has already passed in the House and is only one step away from passage.

Another bill, HB 1203, will prevent the sale if passed. It has already passed in the House.

A third bill, SB 182, will require a hospital to obtain the state’s consent before discontinuing any “essential health service,” which includes abortion. Thus, if a Catholic hospital ceases the provision of abortions, it could lose its license to operate.

The message of these state legislators is clear: if these bills pass, Catholic hospitals will exist in Colorado only at the mercy of the state.