We the undersigned have been distressed to read columns by Michael Hiltzik and other news reports about how University of California medical schools are still in contracted partnerships with religious organizations, including Dignity Health. These affiliations leave UC health professionals at the mercy of the Catholic Church’s religious directives, threatening the healthcare of women.
Hospitals associated with the Catholic Church have historically implemented extremely restrictive rules and policies on health services. They are aggressively expanding their role in US healthcare, already accounting for about one in six acute care beds. The quality of medical care offered in these hospitals is compromised when religious doctrine interferes with treatments recommended by physicians. This interference is experienced by men and women alike. In particular, Dignity Health currently refuses to allow affiliated physicians to dispense any birth control medical measures, not even for an ectopic pregnancy, an emergency procedure. Catholic hospitals also limit end-of-life palliative care discussions, offer no treatment for LGBT women or men… the list of services denied is long.
The UC is a public university funded in part by California taxpayers. According to the California Constitution, it must remain entirely independent of all political and sectarian influence. Having UC medical schools offer care based not on science but on religious directives that notably prohibit contraception, abortion, the use of reproductive technology and gender-affirming care for transgender people, violates the Constitution and reduces the range and quality of care available, particularly for women.
Women in Leadership (WIL) has been working to protect reproductive rights in Orange County for more than a quarter of a century. We were part of the OC Women’s Coalition that led the charge to stop a merger between Hoag Memorial and a Catholic hospital system in 2012. Hoag is now suing to end that partnership, citing “fundamental and growing differences in values” that “directly impact the care of patients within the two systems.” We believe the UC’s values are also at risk if it continues with or expands its affiliation with Dignity Health or other Catholic hospitals.
WIL and the undersigned want to go on record opposing affiliations of our tax-supported university with faith-based hospitals that base medical treatments and decisions on religious doctrine, and remind the Regents that our California Constitution guarantees women equality and reproductive freedom. The Regents have no right to negotiate that away.