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ospital 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.

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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.”

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  • What is the name of Ms Bee’s charity?
    I would like to contribute to the cause as I am very adamant about women’s rights and dignity
    Thank you

  • The Roman Catholic church and its physicians ASK for licenses granted by the state but use that power to enforce religious laws which the state may NOT itself do under the Establishment clause and the Equal Protection clause.

    A restaurant is closed for substituting religious food handling laws for public ones. A pharmacist may not refuse to sell a particular drug any more than a supermarket checker could prevent a consumer from buying pork or liquor. All ASK to be licensed as civil agents,

    Individual physicians may not to refuse medically required services included in their standard of care or to supply scientifically incorrect information. If either results in patient harm, the license must be suspended or revoked.

    Property rights are not absolute. I must still satisfy state and Federal standards if I purchase a water utility or the state can assume control. The same must be true for general hospitals.

    • Robert, hospitals that claim to be Catholic can’t claim to be Catholic if they are violating Catholic faith & morals. A kosher deli shouldn’t be forced to sell pork.

      Opposition to abortion (the willful termination of an unwanted pregnancy) is not only a matter of conscience. There are serious risks/concerns related to contraception & abortion. Healthcare professionals have conscience rights & responsibilities to their patients. Forcing a physician to perform an abortion is just as unacceptable as forcing a patient to undergo an abortion.

      Also, Robert, you may find it helpful to check out the links in a response to Charla.

  • Thank you, Charla. The quote is confusing because miscarriage (spontaneous abortion) and abortion as the willful termination of an unwanted pregnancy are not the same thing. I would encourage Ms. Bee and others who are genuinely interested in the impact of Catholic healthcare on the health of women to learn more about Catholic Church teaching, contraception and abortion from reputable sources.

  • Thank you, Charla. The quote is confusing because miscarriage (spontaneous abortion) and abortion as the willful termination of an unwanted pregnancy are not the same thing. I would encourage Ms. Bee and others who are genuinely interested in the impact of Catholic healthcare on the health of women to learn more about Catholic Church teaching, contraception and abortion from reputable sources. Here’s a link for an explanation of ethical treatment of miscarriage: http://www.ewtn.com/v/experts/showmessage.asp?number=577067. Here’s another about the rare cases in which pregnancy may threaten the life of the mother: http://www.catholic.com/magazine/articles/abortion-and-double-effect.

  • Why would the comments of an uninformed, non clinical comedian make the headlines of a site that considers itself the “frontiers of health and medicine”?

  • “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.” I’m not sure what Ms. Bee is suggesting.

    • To Diana Kendrick, let me help by breaking this down. According to Ms. B’s video, a miscarriage is a womans worse day and if a pregnant woman has the unfortunate fate of being driven to a Catholic health care network, it could very well be here last day as “they” believe or do not believe in terminating the pregnancy even to save the life of the mother.

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