September 3, 2014 — Providence Health and Services, a Catholic-affiliated health care system, has agreed to change provisions of its partnership with Washington State University to remove restrictions on certain health care services that go against Catholic doctrine at a new clinic, Modern Healthcare reports.
In a letter dated Aug. 27, the American Civil Liberties Union of Washington urged WSU's Board of Regents to either ensure that religious doctrine does not restrict health care at the Spokane Teaching Health Center or withdraw from the partnership. The letter noted language in the health center's bylaws that states the facility "shall not undertake any activity, nor shall it perform or permit any medical procedure, that offends the moral or ethical values or directives of Providence, including but not limited to, the Ethical and Religious Directives for Catholic Health Care Services."
The religious directives, issued by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, bar health centers from providing contraceptive service, tubal ligations and other sterilization services, fertility treatments and some care related to advance directives.
Providence spokesperson Colleen Wadden said the teaching center is a secular entity and "not bound by the Ethical and Religious Directives." She added, "Providence is working with its consortium partners ... to review [and modify] the governing documents to ensure that they do not limit the scope of services" provided at the center.
However, ACLU of Washington spokesperson Doug Honig said that while the announcement was "a pleasing development," the facility's current bylaws show it "clearly isn't secular" because they restrict the center's services under the religious directives. He said the bylaws should be revised "to ensure that (the center) becomes a secular entity that does not restrict health services on the basis of religious doctrine."
Honig added that the organization would consider legal action if the religious restrictions are not eliminated (Meyer, Modern Healthcare, 8/29).