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California bill targets university healthcare links to Catholic hospitals

A bill threatens to ban University of California health systems from partnering with institutions that follow Catholic ethics. This is prompting concern that ideological motives on abortion and LGBT issues will damage long-time partnerships and limit medical care access.

An organisation of Catholic hospitals has defended its efforts to adhere to Catholic ethics even though their hospital network provides some procedures related to gender transitioning that have won recognition from major LGBT groups.

“Currently, there are many, many, many, contracts with the University of California and Catholic healthcare,” Edward Dolejsi, interim executive director of the California Catholic Conference, told CNA.

Dolejsi said Catholic institutions are “proud” to partner with the university system.

“But as always, if you’re working at one of our facilities, we follow the (Catholic bishops’) ethical and religious directives,” he said. “We do not allow abortions, elective sterilisations, transgender surgeries etc., in those healthcare facilities.”

However, prospective state legislation called the Equitable and Inclusive University of California Healthcare Act would require the University of California health system to renegotiate agreements with Catholic hospitals. The hospitals would be forced to allow their staff to provide all care they deem medically necessary or to end its links to the state university medical system. The proposal, numbered Senate Bill 379, is under consideration in the California Senate.

Dolejsi said the controversy is “primarily ideological.” Passage of the bill would limit medical access for many Californians, particularly the poor and struggling. It would also limit physicians’ abilities to practice or train.

“That’s always the challenge here: do you want to provide services and resources in a quality way for all the people of California, or do you want to expand an ideology?” Dolejsi asked. He suggested that Catholic health care systems are “probably one of the larger providers of medical services in California.”

“Catholic healthcare is fighting on two fronts here in California,” Dolejsi told CNA.

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