Presence Health may lose tax subsidies over its religious affiliation

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Catholic healthcare organizations have faced criticism for restricting access to some reproductive services, but it could actually cost one Chicago-based system a significant amount of money.

Presence Health, which operates 12 hospitals in the Chicago area, could lose as much as $5.5 million in tax subsidies to develop four of its sites within city limits, including a cancer center, DNAInfo reported.

That's primarily because as a faith-based healthcare system, Presence follows the Ethical and Religious Directives for Catholic Health Care Services, barring the distribution of contraceptive devices or elective sterilizations. The Chicago Community Development Commission has canceled a meeting where the funding was to be discussed, and one of the city's alderman whose support is required for subsidy has withdrawn his support, according to DNAInfo.

"I have very serious concerns about the city of Chicago and its taxpayers subsidizing Presence Health and their policy that restricts their patients' access to reproductive freedom, contraceptive care and services,” Alderman Brendan Reilly told DNAInfo.

The Chicago chapter of the National Organization for Women also criticized the notion of Presence receiving the subsidy.

The number of Catholic-affiliated hospitals has risen dramatically in recent years, up by nearly a quarter since 2001. As many as one in six acute care beds is controlled by a Catholic-affiliated entity. The expanding presence of so many religiously-oriented hospitals has created a point of concern among many groups that access to reproductive services are being curbed. Advocacy groups such as the American Civil Liberties Union has filed lawsuits over the issue, claiming in some actions that the religious doctrine violates EMTALA.