Hospital mergers are rarely, if ever, fodder for late-night television, but Monday night, comedian Samantha Bee excoriated Catholic leadership over a merger-in-progress and what it could mean for women’s health in the United States.
In a sharp-tongued segment on her show “Full Frontal with Samantha Bee,” the popular host lambasted the church’s policies on abortion and obstetrics care in light of a proposed merger between Catholic Health Initiatives and Dignity Health. She argued, in her trademark style, that the growth of Catholic-based health care in the US could mean women won’t be able to access lifesaving care.
“How could our suffering and danger mean so little to you?” Bee asked the church. Her segment highlighted scenarios in which Catholic hospitals declined to treat women in need of abortions, even when the fetus was nonviable, or the mother’s life was in jeopardy.
The piece quoted Rev. Thomas Weinandy of the US Conference of Catholic Bishops as saying, “The fact that they can’t [receive] sterilizations or abortions at a Catholic health services facility is not a form of suffering at all. As a matter of fact, we’re protecting them from evil things that could happen to them.”
It also quoted John Ehrich, medical ethics director of the diocese of Phoenix, saying, “There are some situations where the mother may in fact die along with her child.”
“Right,” Bee said after Ehrich’s face faded from the screen. “Those situations are called the Middle Ages.”
The CHI-Dignity Health merger could create the nation’s largest hospital nonprofit, with total revenue over $27 billion, and further properties to add to the church’s purse of more than 600 hospitals. No doubt the merger will be watched sharply for its financial implications, as well as the concerns Bee highlighted Monday night. In many parts of the US, the closest choice of hospital for a significant number of women is a Catholic health care center.
At the close of her piece on the church, she said: “Modern obstetric medicine is a miracle. It’s the reason women in developed countries don’t have to choose between having children and staying alive. A miscarriage is already the worst day of a woman’s life. And in a Catholic health care network, it could also be her last.”