Proposed Catholic, University Hospital Merger Causes Stir Over Values

The proposed merger between University of Louisville Hospital and Catholic Health Initiatives has caused a stir in the Kentucky community. Opponents of the merger do not like some of the values that the Catholic company would bring.

Catholic hospitals, consistent with Catholic doctrine, do not provide contraception or sterilization procedures, such as tubal ligation, perform abortions, or allow embryonic stem-cell research.

Over 400 Louisville residents signed a petition opposing the merger, according to Inside Higher Ed.

The University of Louisville has attempted to clarify for the community that the merger would not affect the university's medical school. University Hospital is a non-profit institution and is not part of the university. It leases the land for the hospital from the University of Louisville. The University of Louisville School of Medicine is separate from the hospital and its curriculum will not change according to school officials.

Even with that provison, some community members still do not like having a Catholic hospital in their community.

Rep. Tom Burch and Rep. Mary Lou Marzian, two Catholic Democrats who represent Louisville in the Kentucky legislature, wrote an op-ed criticizing the merger. They wrote, “Catholics utilize family planning and abortion care at the same rate as do other American women. The bishops have simply been unable to convince the faithful to adopt their hard-line stance against comprehensive reproductive health care. Their new tactic is to enforce in hospitals what they couldn't do from the pulpit-on Catholics and non-Catholics alike.”

Kentucky Governor Steve Beshear wrote in a July 27 statement that conversations will be held with all those involved in the merger and other interested parties before approving the merger. “This process will be deliberate and thoughtful, and we will take whatever time is necessary to resolve these issues,” Beshear wrote.

Abortion in Catholic hospitals has been a topic of debate in recent years. Some groups have argued that Catholic hospitals that take Medicaid patients, or other government funds, should be required to provide abortions. Catholic hospitals generally defend their rights to govern themselves under their religious beliefs with the religious freedom clauses of the First Amendment: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.”