CHURCH AND STATE

05.13.1310:48 AM ET

Washington Hospital Mergers Could Hurt Abortion Access

Catholic hospitals will control half the hospital beds in state.

The anti-abortion movement has little traction in liberal Washington State, but hospital mergers are doing what conservative activists can’t to restrict abortion access. As The New York Times reports, proposed mergers between secular and Catholic hospitals, part of a wave of such mergers nationwide, would leave the church in control of almost half the beds in the state. Ten of Washington’s 39 counties would have all their hospital beds in Catholic health systems. Critics warn that the mergers would put reproductive-health services out of reach for many patients. In addition, there could be far-reaching repercussions for end-of-life car. Washington is one of only two states that have legalized doctor-assisted suicide for the terminally ill, but it’s unclear whether doctors at Catholic hospitals could even advise their patients of their options under the law. Because the hospitals receive taxpayer support, the ACLU is considering bringing suit against the mergers under a provision of the state’s constitution that bars public funding for religious purposes.

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