Bishops: Don't Make Catholic Hospitals Perform Abortions [UPDATE]

When asked during a debate Sunday if they would support, as a concept, a federal law requiring Catholic hospitals to perform abortions, some Democratic Senate candidates indicated they would. The bishops object.


Editor's note: This article was extensively updated at 6:51 p.m.:

On Sunday, some Democratic candidates for U.S. Senate said they'd favor the concept of a federal law requiring even Catholic hospitals to perform abortions. Now, the state's Catholic bishops are objecting.

Connecticut's Catholic bishops—including Bishop William Lori, who announced in March that he is to become archbishop of the Baltimore Archdiocese—have issued a statement expressing their dismay after all five Democratic candidates said during Sunday's "Face the State" debate that they would support legislation forcing Catholic hospitals to perform abortions.

"If it is their [the candidates'] position that our hospitals should be forced by law or regulations to provide abortions in spite of our teaching, it is unfortunate to note their readiness to violate religious liberty," wrote Archbishop of Hartford Henry Mansell, Archbishop-designate Lori, Bishop Michael Cote of Norwich, and Bishop Paul Chomnycky of the Ukrainian Catholic Diocese of Stamford in the statement issued Monday.

"Their position would be the logical extension of the federal Health and Human Services regulations with regard to so called 'preventative services.'"

When asked whether Catholic hospitals should be required to provide contraceptive services and abortions, the candidates replied in various ways, according to the recording of the debate available at the WFSB-TV website (starting at the 5:30 mark).

Lockhart recently wrote on his blog: "Now, before those of you reading this pick a side, please watch the footage, listen carefully to what the candidates did/didn’t say and then draw your own conclusions about whether all five answered in the affirmative."

Susan Bysiewicz and Matthew Oakes said the federal government has the right to require Catholic hospitals to perform abortions. Chris Murphy seemed to indicate the government should not do that. William Tong also did not give a direct reply, but said, "Access to an abortion should be open and available." Lee Whitnum said providing contraception services is a good thing, but did not say whether Catholic institutions should be forced to do so.

Here's the question Lockhart wrote on his blog that he asked: "Mr. Murphy, you were a strong advocate for the Obama administration’s recent decisions regarding contraception coverage for employees of Catholic organizations. The New York  Times recently reported that as Catholic hospitals become a greater force within the health care industry there are concerns that women’s access to treatments from abortions to sterilizations will be limited. Should the federal government require Catholic hospitals to provide these services, specifically abortions?"

Here are some excerpts of the answers:

  • Susan Bysiewicz: "The federal government has the right to regulate what services are provided, because Catholic institutions, colleges and universities get funding from the federal government, and I believe that those institutions should provide access to reproductive health care."
  • Chris Murphy: "They certainly have the ability to decide what services they perform."
  • Matthew Oakes: "If they're gonna take our money—I'm Roman Catholic—then they need to perform the health care issues that women need performed for them."
  • William Tong: "Access to an abortion should be open and available. Acess to contraception, the same thing. These are basic liberties enshrined in our Constitution, in our jurisprudence. That's a fact. [...] I think we need a cooperative approach. We had a bill in the state Legislature to provide emergency contraception. It was called Plan B. [...] Now Plan B is a reality. Emergency contraception is made available to patients at Catholic hospitals. We just need to find a way to make it work."
  • Lee Whitnum did not answer the question about whether the federal government must force Catholic institutions to provide abortion or contraceptive services. She said she supported institutions providing them.


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