Commentary: Hoag abortion ban is a step backward

Earlier this month, Hoag Hospital in Newport Beach announced to its staff that its physicians would no longer be able to perform elective abortions at the hospital ("Hoag: no more elective abortions," May 8).

This came as a surprise to some of its staff because of earlier discussions regarding "promised" separate policies on birth control in the lead-up to St. Joseph Health System partnering with Hoag.

St. Joseph Health System, which is owned by a Catholic charity, has recently finalized its partnership with Hoag Hospital. St. Joseph facilities typically follow the Roman Catholic Church's guidelines concerning healthcare, including birth control services.

However, according to Hoag's President and Chief Executive Robert Braithwaite, the decision was made independently by the hospital's board without imposition of religious beliefs from its new partnership and is based on the small number of abortions performed by the hospital, the "quality-volume correlation."

Although Dr. Allyson Brooks, the executive medical director for Hoag's Women's Health Institute, explained that this decision does not impact patients' access to abortion services because of the availability of other nearby outpatient centers, like Planned Parenthood, Hoag's decision to ban elective abortions feels like one step in a broader effort to reverse Roe vs. Wade, including House Resolution 23, the Sanctity of Human Life Act.

H. R. 23 is a federal bill sponsored by Rep. Paul C. Broun (R-Georgia), who had made previous attempts at introducing the bill but without success. According to GovTrack, the bill currently has a 16% chance of getting past the subcommittee on the Constitution and civil justice and has a 3% chance of being enacted.

In a nutshell, H. R. 23 states that life begins at fertilization, or conception, and considers the fertilized cell to be a human life and therefore protected by the Constitution. According to H. R. 23, the embryo's right to life would prohibit the woman carrying the embryo from having a legal abortion because the embryo's right to life is equivalent to the woman's right to her own life.

Although it is very unlikely that the bill will pass, instances like Hoag's decision to ban elective abortions leave a misinformed impression to the public. Since when did low numbers mean low success?

Physicians obviously perform a number of operations related to rare conditions and circumstances, but that does not necessarily mean that these surgeries are of "low quality" or less importance compared to other operations that are performed more frequently.

It must be a coincidence that the Catholic Church does not support abortion, St. Joseph Health System recently finalized its partnership with Hoag, and Hoag decided to ban elective abortions.

Separation of religious institutions that would impose their own values from medical service providers and other institutions is necessary in order to fairly serve all human beings.

LINH THAI is a graduate student in social work at USC.

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