ACLU Going After Catholic Hospitals

What Women Really Think
Dec. 27 2010 4:18 PM

ACLU Going After Catholic Hospitals

The ACLU, which works tirelessly to keep religion out of government , seemingly has no similar interest in keeping government out of religion.  Michelle Malkin has a post up on her blog and at the National Review ’s Web site pointing out that the civil rights group is urging the federal government to require Catholic hospitals to perform abortions.

The ACLU is using a high-profile case to nudge the government to dictate to Catholic hospitals that they should provide abortions-a hospital in Phoenix was stripped of its Catholic status nominally for providing an abortion to a woman in life-threatening circumstances, but only after Bishop Thomas Olmstead discovered that the facility and others operated by a group called Catholic Healthcare West have been providing birth control, sterilizations, and abortions. (For what it’s worth, the Phoenix diocese did not actually provide funding to this hospital, but its revoked status means it can no longer celebrate Mass at the hospital.)

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Now, I don’t fault the Phoenix hospital for providing an emergency abortion, and I don’t agree that a hospital should be punished for saving a woman’s life.  But the Catholic Church has a right to determine what services its hospitals provide.  The ACLU should acknowledge this, as it claims to "work hard to protect the rights of free religious expression for all people, including Christians." But forcing the Catholic Church to fund hospitals that provide abortions is nothing if not denying Catholics the right to free religious expression.

On a more practical note, the ACLU needs to pick its battles. As Malkin mentions-and as Melinda Henneberger explained in great detail in Slate back in 2008 -we can’t have quality health care without Catholic hospitals. They make up one-third of all hospitals in the country, and a recent study shows that they deliver better care than for-profit hospitals .  If they are required to perform abortions, many of them will choose to cease operating. It might seem like an ugly threat. But that’s probably how the church views the ACLU’s efforts.

Rachael Larimore is a Slate senior editor.

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