The University of California San Francisco (UCSF) will not expand its relationship with a Catholic healthcare system because of the religious administration’s policies on LGBTQ and reproductive services, as well as end of life care.
UCSF officials released letters explaining the decision to end discussions over formally affiliating with Dignity Health, a Catholic network, though some small-scale cooperative projects will continue. The Los Angeles Times reported further:
“The decision reflects concerns that had been raised among UCSF medical professionals and advocates for women’s healthcare and LGBTQ advocates about the proposed affiliation. The deal would have tightened UCSF’s relationship with Dignity’s four Bay Area hospitals — Dominican Hospital in Santa Cruz, Sequoia Hospital in Redwood City, and St. Francis Memorial and St. Mary’s Medical Center in San Francisco.
“As we’ve been reporting, those concerns stemmed from Dignity’s adherence to Catholic Church dictates regarding women’s reproductive healthcare and transgender services, among others. St. Mary’s and Dominican are designated as Catholic hospitals subject to the Ethical and Religious Directives for Catholic Health Care Service, known as ERDs.”
This decision by UCSF comes after tremendous pushback from its employees, more than 1,500 of whom signed a petition against the potential partnership because Catholic healthcare directives would inhibit patients’ access to quality services. If the partnership was approved, UCSF providers would then be required to abide by religious directives despite working at a secular institution. The petitioners specifically named transgender patients as possible victims of discrimination given they would likely be denied routine surgeries like hysterectomies and mastectomies as part of their gender transitions. Also of concern are prohibitions on assistive reproductive technology often used by LGBTQ people.
LGBTQ advocates outside the UCSF community have been quite critical. Evan Minton, a transgender man suing Dignity Health for allegedly cancelling a scheduled hysterectomy as part of his gender transition, commented, per a local affiliate of CBS News:
“‘And for this hospital to cancel my necessary and important health care based solely upon who I am is painful beyond any comprehension. . .Your transgender students will get lost in the system and wind up at a [D]ignity [H]ealth hospital resulting in harmful discrimination just like I did.'”
A spokesperson for Equality California said “it would be unconscionable to limit [transgender and other affected patients’] access to medically necessary, and in some cases, life saving services.”
These concerns had intensified in recent weeks because of the Trump administration’s repeated efforts to end transgender non-discrimination protections in healthcare and social service sectors. Vanessa Jacoby, an associate professor at UCSF for obstetrics and gynecology, said that when it comes to restrictions on women’s and transgender people’s healthcare “what may have been theoretical in peoples’ minds has become a reality.”
More concrete details about the partnership had not been finalized before the University’s Board of Regents was supposed to vote in June so, per the Times, knowing how the partnership would have actually affected patient care was unclear. Both UCSF and Dignity expressed a willingness however to find alternative ways to collaborate meaning this controversy is not settled yet.
Controversies involving Catholic healthcare providers and LGBTQ patients are intensifying given both the rise in gender transitions and the growing public health impact of Catholic systems. Bishops, at least in the United States, have made clear their opposition to transgender civil rights, including healthcare issues. Most recently, top bishops with the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops announced their support for Trump administration decisions to expand religious exemptions for healthcare workers who can now object to LGBTQ patient care and to remove “gender identity” as a protected category in the Department of Health and Human Services guidelines, which will affect federal government policies generally.
This opposition is why Amanda Goad of the ACLU of Southern California announced a new campaign in that state co-sponsored by the National Health Law Program to challenge Catholic hospitals. Called “All Care Everywhere,” Goad explained the campaign in the Washington Blade:
“All Care Everywhere is bringing attention to this problem and sharing stories with the California Department of Public Health and the California Attorney General’s office to hold Catholic hospitals accountable. . .We are also spreading the word about how Catholic hospitals make patient care decisions, so that people with options can choose other health care providers. But unfortunately, for many Californians, the only hospitals near them or covered by their insurance are run by Catholic health systems, which listen to bishops instead of patients and their doctors. So we need to take action.”
Given that the Catholic Church is a main provider of healthcare in the U.S., it is unfortunate that Catholic healthcare ministries have devolved into discrimination and patient care denials. And this devolution is largely due to the bishops’ unwillingness to educate themselves using the latest research on gender identity issues. But while it may be unfortunate, the stakes are so great that the faithful have to become involved with efforts to take back Catholic healthcare and return it to a Church ministry which cares for all people’s well-being.
—Robert Shine, New Ways Ministry, June 2, 2019