Monday, January 25, 2010

Planned Parenthood Director Fearmongers about Catholic hospitals

Operating a Catholic hospital or health care system is complex. Mergers, cost-cutting, public funding, fidelity to mission, profitability, community service- all these objectives compete with one another and no outsider should be flippant about the difficult decisions Catholic health professionals must make. This makes the following guest column from the largely defunct Ann Arbor News especially galling.

It's by Michael I. Hertz, medical director of Planned Parenthood of South Central Michigan and an associate clinical professor with the Michigan State University College of Human Medicine. Note its shameless pandering to latent anti-Catholic sentiment and use of rhetorical trickery. Hertz paints a picture of a vast, ambitious institution that deprives people of liberty and rolls in the dough at the expense of the poor and unwary. This is classic 19th century anti-Catholicism on a par with spook stories about Jewish banking conspiracies.

The Catholic Church controls a huge and growing slice of the health care pie as evidenced by the following numbers: the 600 Catholic hospitals represent an estimated 12 percent of the total US hospitals, which received $45 billion in public funds, and treat 1 in 6 Americans annually. In 2003, Ascension Health, the largest Catholic system in the United States remarkably brought in total revenue of $10.04 billion. And of course in the most recent past, we witnessed a dramatic tour de force of the influence of Catholic healthcare in the recent Congressional debate over healthcare reform resulting in the Stupak-Pitts amendment, potentially eliminating abortion services for women covered by the plan. The scope of Catholic healthcare in the nation’s healthcare system is daunting to say the least.
Wow. If Catholics continue to heal the sick whose to say what beast they might "sic" on the rest of us. Look at Hertz' rhetorical gamesmanship.

*Note the alarmist tone. "The Catholic Church controls a huge and growing slice of teh health care pie...eliminating abortion services for women...The scope of Catholic daunting to say the least."

*Note that the revenue numbers have no context. They sound big until you ask, well what is the total revenue of hospitals in the U.S? I don't know but the tax-exempt hospitals of Cleveland (Cleveland Clinic, University Hospitals, & Sisters of Charity Health System) had revenue of 7.2 billion dollars in 2007. So imagine New York, Los Angeles, Houston, Chicago, Dallas, Atlanta, Detroit, Omaha, Minneapolis, Phoenix, Miami, etc. All of a sudden Hertz' statement that "Ascension Health, the largest Catholic system in the United States remarkably brought in total revenue of $10.04 billion" is not all that remarkable. BTW, the Sisters of Charity have as part of their mission to give care to anyone who walks in the door regardless of ability to pay. According to Hertz, the world would be better off if the Sisters were required to do abortions, sterilizations or be forced to shut their doors. What a wonderful world Hertz' would be? This is the same ideological blindness that forced the Archdiocese of Boston to cease offering adoption services rather than release children to homosexual partners.

*Note that while revenue numbers are given, no expense numbers are given. In 1998 Catholic hospitals lost nearly 3 billion dollars on care to the urban and rural poor.

*Note the mention of public funds as though there was something dirty about a Catholic institution receiving any public support regardless of how much it serves the public good. In fact, the law declares that the receipt of federal funds in various health programs will not require hospitals to participate in abortion or sterilization procedures. This law was born because a federal district court tried to require a Catholic hosptal to perform sterilizations.

*Note the implied nefarious political influence. The Catholic Church is a threat to the American sense of freedom and fairness.

*Note the neglect to mention his own organization's 880 clinics and self-interest in this debate.

.....there is no mention that one third of Planned Parenthood's budget is from taxpayers. In 2008, PP was the largest recipient of Title X funds, more than 337 million dollars a year. This money indirectly subsidizes abortion by keeping PP clinics financially viable. PP reported a surplus of $115 million in 2007 and is targeting the middle class with "elegant, new health centers."

.....that Planned Parenthood kills about 5,000 unborn a week. They kill black unborn children disproportionate to black population. BTW, the Pearl Harbor attack killed about 2,000 innocent; September 11th, about 3,000. Planned Parenthood beats them combined...EVERY WEEK.

Hertz believes that justice requires that poor unborn children should be aborted at the rate of wealthy unborn children. How nice and symmetrical.

Poor and low-income women bear a disproportional brunt of mergers between
Catholic and secular hospitals as they rely on such hospitals for much of their
healthcare needs compared with affluent women. Geography (in the case of rural
women) and economics or both restrict their choice of healthcare institution to
Catholic hospitals with the resultant abandonment of their reproductive needs,
this in the face of the overt mission of Catholic hospitals and in the words of
the mission statement of Trinity Health, “…to heal body, mind and spirit, to
improve the health of our communities and to steward the resources entrusted to
Hypocrisy such as this does little to further the public good. Mergers between secular non-profit hospitals such as Chelsea and Catholic hospital systems that result in the elimination of vital healthcare services must not be allowed to proceed. There is clear precedent for a “divorce” between unequal partners such as these, as many merged systems have un-merged to better provide needed care to their constituent patient population. Chelsea Hospital and the people of Chelsea would be well served to do the same.
I guess Hertz would say shame on those hypocrites like Mother Frances Cabrini. Shame on the hypocrite Mother Theodore Guerin. Shame on the hypocrites Mother Mary Russell, Mother Xavier, Mother Joseph. Shame on all of them for conniving to undermine America.

The legacy of these pioneering founders of U.S. hospitals and Catholic health care systems is now under attack. Their names are familiar to all: Sisters of Providence, Sisters of Charity, Sisters of Mercy, the Franciscan Sisters of Mary, Sisters of the Holy Cross. These are a few of the religious communities renowned for founding and operating hospitals throughout the United States—generally in cities and towns where none existed, certainly none to serve the poor. This is a proud legacy of serving the common good of America. Their consciences knew pretty clearly that they were called to heal, not harm; to minister life not death, to love not destroy. Shame on Hertz. He apparently has a different vision.

P.S. In a letter to the editor the Medical Director of the University of Michigan Chelsea Health Center says in a dignified rebuttal of Hertz: "While it is true that certain procedures are not available at the hospital itself becasue of the change in hospital ownership, there has been no substantial change in the availability of family planning or related services to the Chelsea community...The quality and diversity of medical care available to the Chelsea community has not changed nor been adveresely impacted by the merger


  1. ...and in other news, the Guttenmacher Institute (yep, that one) is trying to derail abstinence-only education down here in the Lone-Star State - no not directly, but with pointed references - with studies like this one:

  2. 1 in 6 Americans is about 17% of the population. Yet they are only 12% of the hospitals. Sounds like they are either more efficient of more generous than the norm.