Last week, the chief administrator of the new taxpayer-subsidized medical facility on San Juan Island told the hospital district commissioners that because PeaceIsland does NOT provide maternity care, the Attorney General Formal Opinion issued this August does not apply.
On hearing the news, islander heads were spinning. As the lead editorial in this week’s San Juan Journal said, “What’s up with that?”
It was only last month that one of the hospital district commissioners, Dr. Michael Edwards, made clear that the hospital district does and should fund maternity services.
So the first question is: Did the policy change? And if so, when?
And the second question is: Why on earth would a hospital/medical facility, subsidized with tax dollars and serving a remote island population, decide not to serve pregnant women and new mothers? Especially when that same medical facility was touted as a major upgrade and expansion to an aging facility that served pregnant women and new mothers for decades?
The answers are complex, but at the heart is the control exercised by Catholic bishops over Catholic health care systems and the bishops’ longstanding insistence that birth control, vasectomies, tubal ligations, and abortions are immoral, or even better, “intrinsically evil.”
By saying emphatically that PeaceIsland does NOT provide maternity care, which the Attorney General broadly defined as any prenatal, delivery, or postpartum services and information, PeaceHealth and its lawyers think that the hospital district commissioners will be off the hook for having to fund other reproductive health services, including birth control and/or abortion.
But, fortunately, it doesn’t work that way. In the real world, the absurdity of a hospital district subsidizing physician services for everyone BUT pregnant women and new mothers is a losing political strategy AND a losing legal strategy.
The Washington State Constitution is very clear that “No public money or property shall be appropriated for or applied to any religious worship, exercise or instruction, or the support of any religious establishment.” By handing money over to PeaceHealth, a religious institution that answers to the local Catholic bishop, and then letting PeaceHealth dictate what services are and aren’t moral and appropriate for the San Juan Island community, the hospital district is clearly supporting religion and religious beliefs. PeaceHealth’s recent statements about not serving pregnant women or new mothers, in order to help the hospital district avoid responsibility for complying with the provisions of the Reproductive Privacy Act, just make the whole situation abundantly clear.
It’s time for the absurdity, and the clear violation of Section 11 of Washington State’s Constitution, to stop.