Catholic bishop calls for removal of hospitals from pro-reform association

Voicing concerns over the new health reform law's stance on abortion coverage, Rhode Island Catholic bishop Thomas Tobin requested that two hospitals sponsored by his diocese--St. Joseph's and Fatima Hospitals, both in Providence--be removed from the membership list of the Catholic Health Association. 

In doing so, Tobin became the first bishop in the nation to request such action. The CHA split from the church and the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops by supporting the bill's passage in March, something Tobin said caused "serious scandal for many members of the church," in a letter to the organization's president and CEO, Sister Carol Keehan. 

"[A]ssociation with CHA is now embarrassing, and for that reason, I request that our name be removed," Tobin wrote, according to the Providence Journal. His main concern was that the possibility remained that new law could eventually lead to public money for abortions. He also expressed that the rights of medical professionals who did not want to participate in such procedures would not be protected.

Under the new law, no healthcare plans are required to offer coverage for abortions. States can also choose to not offer abortion coverage through the exchange, according to a summary of the new law created by CBS News. Furthermore, private insurance premiums funds and taxpayer funds will be separated, so anyone who wants an abortion would have to pay for the procedure with two separate payments, with private funds going into a separate account from federal and taxpayer funds. Anti-abortion Democrats also came to an agreement with the White House that federal funds would be prohibited from paying for abortions, except in cases of rape, incest or health of the mother.

The withdrawal of the hospitals from the organization, which Keehan told the Associated Press she will honor, means the hospitals will no longer "receive newsletters...or certain discounts" according to CHA spokesman Fred Caesar. 

To learn more:
- read this Providence Journal article
- here's the Associated Press article