Rob Boston of Americans United for Separation of Church and State seems to be under the impression that religious organizations exist to serve secular political goals. He opines today on a decision by the Maryland Health Care Commission to permit Holy Cross Hospital in Montgomery County just outside DC to build a new facility. The outrageously outrageous nature of the decision has to do with…well, you can guess:

One thing we firmly believe is that people should be able to access medical care without interference from religious groups.

In other words, religious groups that provide medical care should be required to do so in accordance with AU’s policy preferences, rather than what those groups believe to be moral or not.

In some parts of the country, this is becoming difficult to do – especially when public hospitals and Roman Catholic hospitals merge. When this happens, church officials demand that the public hospital adopt a series of rules that reflect Catholic dogma.

This makes no sense whatsoever. If a public hospital merges with a Catholic one, and the Catholic entity takes control of the merged facility, that makes the church the owner, and thus the entire merged facility comes under Catholic direction. If the Catholic hospital is taken over by a public entity, then it will operate according to that entity’s rules. What Boston is saying here essentially is that if a public hospital merges with a Catholic one, it still in his view has to operate according to the public hospital’s standards, even though the church will be footing the bills. In other words, secular standards always trump religious ones, no matter who is actually in charge.

The Ethical and Religious Directives of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops ban all abortions, for any reason. They ban the distribution of birth control. Sterilizing operations are forbidden, and a patient’s end-of-life decisions can be overridden if they conflict with church doctrine.

All true. Heaven forbid that Catholic hospitals should operate according to Catholic moral standards. The arrogance! The nerve of these mackeral-snappers!

Yesterday, this controversy hit home for many of us at Americans United. The Maryland Health Care Commission voted unanimously to allow a Catholic hospital called Holy Cross to build a new facility in northern Montgomery County. The commission made this vote even though another hospital run by a group affiliated with the Seventh-day Adventists had proposed building a facility that would offer the full range of reproductive care.

I don’t know anything about how the commission decided between the two, but commission chair Marilyn Moon summarized it this way, according to the Washington Post:

In a memo summarizing her decision, Moon said the Holy Cross approach would do a better job of improving access to hospital services for residents of upper Montgomery and providing adequate bed capacity for the future “that is both reasonable in its cost and located [in] the area of the county that will experience the highest levels of population growth.” She also said Holy Cross’s parent organization, Trinity Health, a Catholic hospital system based in Michigan, is financially well positioned to undertake the project.

But none of this matters to abortion absolutists, for whom the notion of a hospital not offering abortion is as incomprehensible as spoken Urdu to a deaf person using American sign language. Boston even says as much:

Several people on the AU staff (me among them) live in Montgomery County. We were shocked by this decision. Our county, which is largely affluent, progressive and well educated, will be given a new hospital that doesn’t provide complete reproductive health care.

There are lots of hospitals that don’t perform lots of different medical procedures (heart transplants, for instance), but abortion is the one procedure that every hospital, and every medical practitioner, should be required to perform. Or else:

AU Field Director Beth Corbin was at the commission meeting yesterday. For months, Beth has worked with women’s groups and the reproductive rights community to persuade the commission to back the Adventist option.

After the vote, Corbin told The Washington Post that the fight isn’t over. Legal action is being considered.

Of course it is. Because AU is nothing if not a legal bully, seeking to impose its policy preferences on religious organizations, regardless of the consequences. It doesn’t matter that there are five other hospitals in Montgomery County, and at least five abortion clinics. Abortion being the lodestone of the authoritarian left, this Catholic hospital must either be brought into line with the culture of death or stopped in its tracks.

In addition to the religious liberty issue, there’s another probably hasn’t occurred to pro-aborts such as Boston. Imagine that the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, having seen AU and its allies get their way in court, decide that rather than violate their consciences and allow Catholic institutions to engage in the mass killing of the unborn, simply shut down the Catholic health care system. It isn’t actually that hard to imagine, giving the church’s willingness, for instance, to close adoption agencies rather than adopt children out to gay couples. Picture this, then, using figures from the National Catholic Reporter:

Catholic health care facilities form the largest not-for-profit health service sector in the United States, caring for nearly one-sixth of all U.S. hospital patients each year.

The 620 Catholic hospitals across the country make up 12.4 percent of the nation’s 5,010 community hospitals.

They provide 15 percent of the hospital beds and in 2008 accounted for more than 5.6 million — 15.8 percent — of the 35.8 million patients admitted to those hospitals that year.

In addition to inpatient hospital stays, Catholic hospitals handled more than 98 million outpatient visits, 15.7 percent of the national total.

Catholic hospitals handle more than 30 percent of all admissions in Alaska, Iowa, Oregon, South Dakota and Wisconsin. They handle between 20 and 30 percent of admissions in another 17 states, mainly across the Midwest and Northwest.

The Catholic Health Association, using data from the American Hospital Association, reported earlier this year that Catholic hospitals were ahead of other hospitals in a wide range of public health and specialty services traditionally considered “unprofitable.”

These included the percentage of Catholic hospitals offering alcohol and drug abuse treatment, birthing rooms, breast cancer screening, child and adolescent psychiatric services, child wellness programs, community outreach, crisis prevention, dental services, geriatric services, HIV/AIDS services, neonatal intensive care units, nutrition programs, obstetrics, pain management programs, and various social work services. [Emphasis added for irony.]

In these and several other areas, other not-for-profit hospitals lagged just slightly behind Catholic hospitals. Hospitals owned by state or local governments consistently came in third, and investor-owned for-profit hospitals came in fourth — in many cases a distant fourth.

Breast cancer screening and mammogram services, for example, were offered by more than three-fourths of Catholic and other nonprofit hospitals, by two-thirds of government-owned facilities and by only two-fifths of the for-profits.

In three of the areas — alcohol/drug abuse treatment, psychiatric services for children and adolescents, and teen outreach — 20 percent or more of Catholic hospitals had programs, compared to 15-17 percent of other nonprofits, 10 percent or fewer of government-owned hospitals, and only 2-3 percent of the for-profit institutions.

I think it’s clear on the basis of these numbers that the closing of Catholic hospitals nationwide would result in a public health crisis of catastrophic proportions. That’s what AU is apparently willing to see happen in its effort to get the Catholic Church to dole out the sacrament of abortion alongside the bread and wine.