WASHINGTON (ABP) – Americans United for Separation of Church and State said Dec. 14 that a proposed hospital merger in Louisville, Ky., is unconstitutional and urged Gov. Steve Beshear to block it.
Leaders of the church-state watchdog organization say if a merger between University Medical Center and Catholic Healthcare Initiatives goes through, University Medical Center will be required to adopt Catholic directives. That would mean dropping or curtailing services such as birth control, sterilization and other forms of reproductive health care that don’t conform to teachings of the Catholic Church.
A public institution affiliated with the University of Louisville, University Medical Center handles a disproportionate share of the city’s indigent care.
“The medical care of Kentucky’s most vulnerable citizens should not be held hostage by religious dogma,” said Barry Lynn, executive director of Americans United. “We call on Gov. Beshear to put a stop to this ill-conceived scheme.”
AU lawyers wrote Kentucky’s governor and attorney general saying the transaction would violate establishing clauses of both the U.S. and Kentucky constitutions.
With no-cost indigent care, the AU letter said, University Hospital is providing a government-funded public service that “should not be infused with or limited by religious considerations.”
“If University Hospital stops offering certain services because of religious strictures, indigent and low-income patients may not have other safe and reliable options for receiving those services,” the letter said.
InsiderLouisville.com reported in August that negotiations about the merger were mostly “clandestine,” but that one major sticking point was resolved when Baptist Health Care System offered to take over post-delivery tubal ligations. Catholic Health Initiatives, the senior partner in the deal, doesn’t provide tubal ligations or other forms of birth control.
Bob Allen is managing editor of Associated Baptist Press.