Warning: Article contains graphic images
The report proved that CommonSpirit Health was responsible for the performance of sex-change operations, providing hormone-based transgender therapies, providing puberty blockers to children under the auspices of so-called “gender-affirming care,” is financially subsidizing the same through its employee benefits packages, is financially subsidizing medical institutions performing these procedures and therapies, is providing all forms of modern contraception (including abortifacients) to patients, and is even performing (at least in one case) elective abortions and surgical sterilizations.
After the publication of this report, the Lepanto Institute has learned that CommonSpirit Health has partnered with a women’s clinic that is now providing telemed abortions. In 2021, CommonSpirit announced a new partnership with Tia Women’s Health – a partnership designed to dramatically expand Tia’s impact by expanding its physical presence around the country. And even though Tia has only recently begun providing medical abortions, its intention to expand the abortion industry through these clinics has been a matter of public record since its inception.
CommonSpirit Health and the launching of Planned Parenthood 2.0
Tia Women’s Health, a New York based women’s primary and reproductive health clinic, got its start in 2017 as a chat-based app called “Ask Tia,” which was designed to answer questions about “birth control, sexual health, insurance coverage, and more.”
Building upon the popularity of the app, Tia opened its first physical location in New York City as “a one-stop-shop for women’s health.” In 2020, due to lockdowns related to COVID-19, Tia expanded its operations to a virtual platform, always with an eye toward providing telemed abortion.
As will be seen in this report, Tia Women’s Health provides contraception and now abortion in a bid to become what appears to be Planned Parenthood 2.0, and it is doing so with the help of the largest Catholic health network in the United States.
Background on the partnership
On March 31, 2021, CommonSpirit Health published a press release announcing its partnership with Tia in a “first-of-its-kind partnership to create a new front door to healthcare for women.” According to the press release, the partnership is intended to build women’s health clinics, beginning in Phoenix, Arizona:
The deal enables the two healthcare leaders to launch Tia-branded women’s health clinics together that will provide comprehensive, blended virtual and in-person care — with plans for the first clinic in Phoenix where CommonSpirit operates multiple Dignity Health medical centers.
The CommonSpirit relationship is Tia’s first major partnership with a national health system.
The joint venture clinics will combine a multitude of services and practitioners into a one-stop shop for women that fuses gynecological care and primary care. Tia will provide its distinctive care model, staffing and technology infrastructure, while CommonSpirit will connect Tia to patients, health plan partners, and hospital and specialty care access.
Carolyn Witte, the co-founder and CEO of Tia, explained why CommonSpirit was the ideal choice of partner in this endeavor, saying:
CommonSpirit was the ideal partner to help us scale our proven model nationally with geographic reach across 21 states from coast to coast, recognized clinical excellence, and an industry-leading commitment to health equity.
The end of the press release concludes with a basic establishment of the collaborative plan:
The initial Tia-CommonSpirit pilot will launch ‘virtual-first’ in Spring 2021, followed by its first brick-and-mortar clinic opening this October in Phoenix with expansions in Arizona and other CommonSpirit markets over the next few years.
Currently, CommonSpirit is clearly identified in Tia’s website as a “partner.”
The “Ask Tia Help Center” provided some additional information about the reason for this partnership:
By partnering, Tia can expand to reach more people in more states, expand the insurance plans we accept that are critical to accessing our services, and enable our patients to have seamless access to premier specialty care and hospitals, starting in Arizona.
In short, Tia is using CommonSpirit Health to provide the financial and medical infrastructure needed to build and establish brick and mortar locations over nearly half the country, while CommonSpirit receives patient referrals from Tia. The Ask Tia Help Center also explained how these referrals work, saying:
One of the many benefits of Tia’s partnership with Dignity/CommonSpirit is the ease of access to premier specialists, if the scope of your needs falls outside of Tia’s Care Team expertise. While we aim to be a ‘one-stop-shop’ for our patients, we are committed to quality above all else, and sometimes, that means making a referral to a specialist. For example, if you need to see a cardiologist, endocrinologist or rheumatologist, Tia’s Care Coordinators can assist you with scheduling and sharing of your health records to make collaboration between your primary care team at Tia and Dignity Health’s specialists smooth and seamless.
An April 2021 article published by the Darwin Research Group explained the Tia/CommonSpirit partnership’s plan to expand, saying:
The clinics will expand to other CommonSpirit markets over the next few years, according to Tia, which is based in New York City and has a location in Los Angeles as well. The partnership with Common Spirit ‘will connect Tia to patients, health plan partners, and hospital and specialty care access,’ Tia noted.
In addition to having a partnership, CommonSpirit is represented on Tia’s Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Advisory Council, indicating a much more intimate relationship between the two organizations. Tia identifies Marijka Grey, CommonSpirit’s System VP for Ambulatory Transformation and Innovation, as a member of Tia’s DEI advisory council.
The partnership between Tia and CommonSpirit appears to have been set in motion the year before. According to CommonSpirit’s tax form 990 for fiscal year 2020, CommonSpirit has a 65% ownership of Tia Arizona.
The Direct Controlling Entity of Tia Arizona is Dignity Community Care (DCC), which (according to DCC’s 2020 tax form 990, page 1) is an affiliate of CommonSpirit Health. In short, CommonSpirit Health technically owns Tia Arizona. The address given for Tia Arizona is “3030 N Central Ave” in Phoenix, which currently shows up as a Dignity Health location on Google Maps.
Apparently, during the early stages of the partnership, Dignity Health served as an initial establishing location before the collaborative clinic was opened. The Tia Arizona LLC is now located 51051 N Kierland Blvd. in Scottsdale – which is where Tia’s website indicates the clinic is now.
Problems from the beginning
On social media, both Carolyn Witte and Tia made their positions on abortion completely clear long before establishing a relationship with CommonSpirit. There is simply no way that CommonSpirit was unaware of Witte or Tia’s intentions to promote or even provide abortion through their services at the time the partnership was confirmed.
In November 2009, Witte tweeted, “Stop the abortion ban!”
On August 5, 2015, Witte tweeted an article on abortion with the hashtag #StandWithPP (meaning Planned Parenthood).
On June 27, 2016, Witte cheered about the Supreme Court striking down HB2 as a win “for abortion rights.”
On November 30, 2016, Witte tweeted that it would be “madness” to revoke the contraceptive mandate from the Affordable Care Act.
On March 4, 2017, Witte railed against Texas’ attempt to ban abortions.
On January 22, 2019 – the anniversary of Roe v. Wade – Tia tweeted, “Let us never forget that when one woman’s rights are at risk, all of our rights are at risk #Roe46.” This message accompanied an image that read: “Choice over your own body is the foundation for equality.”
On February 7, 2019, Tia tweeted unequivocally its intention to provide abortion as a service. This was two years before Tia entered into a relationship with the largest Catholic health network in the United States. “We are not able to provide abortion services at the Tia Clinic going out the gate, but fully intend to in the future as we expand our scope of services. On day one, we will provide all-options counseling, and seamless referrals to abortion providers we trust in NYC.”
On June 1, 2021, just three months after inking a deal with CommonSpirit, Tia tweeted a celebratory message from the Guttmacher Institute about the Biden administration’s intentions to provide tax-funded abortions.
On September 2, 2021, Tia tweeted a lament about SCOTUS upholding a Texas ban on abortion.
On May 6, 2022, Tia tweeted an image quoting Witte, who said, “Abortion is a health care issue, health care is an employer issue, so abortion is an issue for employers.” Tia also announced the intention to provide “virtual medication abortion services in states where we operate and where it’s legal to do so (currently California and New York).”
On May 13, 2022, just over a year after Tia partnered with CommonSpirit, Tia stated, “We believe abortion care is a critical component of women’s health. It is a safe and effective option that will help our patients access this service without delays and in the context of their broader physical, mental, and reproductive healthcare – like every service we provide.”
That same day, Tia announced that it would begin providing medical abortion as one of its services that very week.
On June 24, 2022, the day Dobbs v. Jackson overturned the notorious Roe v. Wade decision, Tia announced that it would be doubling down on the notion “that abortion is healthcare, period.”
Simultaneous with the previous tweet, Tia called the overturning of Roe “a devastating setback for health, equity, & human rights.”
Bearing in mind that Tia is partnered with CommonSpirit Health in Arizona, Tia again tweeted on June 24, 2022, stating its intent to “support our patients with access to medication abortion … via a local partner on-the-ground in Arizona, where we’ll continue to monitor local laws closely.”
On July 1, 2022, Tia told supporters to “Stay tuned as we do our part to help shift the conversation on abortion & call for more providers to offer medication abortion as part of their primary care services.” [Emphasis added]
On July 15, 2022, Tia tweeted a 55-second video of its CEO Carolyn Witte comparing abortion to treating pink eye or strep throat while stating the “need” to integrate abortion as a part of “primary care” that should be covered by employers as an “integrated solution.”
At no point in any of this public activity has CommonSpirit indicated a severing of its relationship with Tia, and there is no indication anywhere that this partnership has changed at all. But social media isn’t the only place Tia has actively endorsed and announced its support for and provision of abortion as a “service.”
In a 2021 article published on Tia’s website, it explained why they chose Phoenix as their third location to open a clinic. Citing the Guttmacher Institute’s 2021 document, “State Facts About Abortion: Arizona,” Tia wrote:
Despite the clear need for expanded medical access in Arizona, state lawmakers are placing restrictions on access to reproductive healthcare and education. In a state where health access hangs in the balance, the clear need for care motivates us to help fill access gaps and provide compassionate, affirming, options-based reproductive health care to our members, including contraception, STI testing and treatment, support for conditions like endometriosis & PCOS, and more. [Emphases added]
The use of ambiguous language in this article is clear, but considering it is also speaking of its partnership with Dignity Health (the link to CommonSpirit), it is understandable why this would be. The article states:
Our partnership with Dignity Health in Arizona means that Tia members can more easily access premier specialists and hospitals for care that falls outside our scope.
It’s already unacceptable that CommonSpirit would be partnering with Tia in Arizona while stating its intention to dispense contraception, but the ambiguous mention of restricted access to “reproductive healthcare” while citing the Guttmacher Institute on abortion access in Arizona strongly suggests a pro-abortion motive for Tia from the outset.
But as with its social media presence, Tia has made its support for abortion publicly known for several years before its partnership with CommonSpirit. In 2019, Tia published an article titled, “The State of U.S. Abortion Rights.” The very first line of the article illustrates Tia as an “abortion rights” activist organization:
The most restrictive abortion laws we’ve seen in generations are currently spreading like wildfire across the U.S. To equip you with the information you need to know to fight and protect our legal right to abortion, here are:
- The facts on what has changed.
- What’s *at risk* to change.
- And what you (yes, you!) can do about it.
At the end of the article, Tia asks readers to “Donate to organizations working to protect and provide abortion services at a critical time,” recommending the Yellowhammer Fund, Planned Parenthood Action Fund, and NARAL.
In June 2019, Tia signed a letter to lawmakers saying, “Restricting access to comprehensive reproductive care, including abortion, threatens the health, independence and economic stability of our employees and customers.”
In the summer of 2020, Tia published an article co-authored by Witte and co-founder Felicity Yost titled, “Dear Future President – What Women Want for Healthcare in America.” In the article, Witte and Yost argue that the majority of women in America believe that insurance coverage should include abortion:
Despite having other first-level priorities, women do care deeply about issues related to pregnancy, contraception, abortion, and fertility. A majority of women surveyed believe that insurance should cover a wide range of reproductive health services, including pre- and post-natal care, contraception, fertility treatments, abortion, and other gender-specific care coverage. There are varying levels of support for coverage of certain services, however, based on political affiliation, race/ethnicity, and income level.
For instance, although 77% of the U.S. population supports the right to abortion protected by Roe v. Wade, among women included in this survey, 52% believe that insurance companies should be required to cover abortion services, with greater support amongst Democratic women. Support for coverage of contraceptives and abortion is highest among females with no children and women who identify as Democrats. [Emphases added]
An April 1, 2021, article published at FastCompany.com also covered the partnership of Tia and CommonSpirit, but this article pointed out that Tia was going to continue to provide contraception despite partnering with a Catholic healthcare organization. The article was titled “This Millennial Health Brand is Expanding with a Controversial Partner.” In discussing the company’s founding in 2017, it states that among its services are “IUD insertion and removal.”
Of course, IUDs are forbidden according to Catholic moral teaching. But the cracks really begin to show when the article cited both a representative for CommonSpirit Health and Tia’s foundress with regard to abortion. The CommonSpirit rep admits that their hospitals refer out for abortion and grants approval for Tia to do the same.
As a Catholic system, CommonSpirit, and its sub-brand Dignity Health, abide by the Statement of Common Values, which means it doesn’t perform ‘elective’ abortion services or use ‘reproductive technology in which conception occurs outside a woman’s body’ including in-vitro fertilization. A representative for CommonSpirit says that its doctors refer patients out to other clinics when they need these services. Tia, which does not currently provide abortion or fertility services, has signed the Statement of Common Values. Tia will be allowed to refer out, as it does in New York, for services it can’t provide, like obstetrics. [Emphases added]
Following this, Witte claimed that Tia would have full control over what services they offer, and the article then cites her past interest in providing abortion at Tia locations.
Witte says she doesn’t believe that CommonSpirit will encroach on how Tia delivers care. ‘Everything is controlled by Tia and as a result of that we have total control over the practice of medicine,’ she says, adding that the company at its core wants to provide women with choices.
In the past, Witte has said she would be interested in providing abortion care. ‘We will do abortion. and when we do it, we’re going to do it in the best way, which means absolutely providing medication abortion, but hopefully getting into surgery as well,’ she told The Cut in early 2019. But when I asked her recently about Tia’s plans to introduce abortion care since it’s such an important aspect of women’s health, she offered a more cautious response: ‘Tia is really focused on the model that we’re doing today. When and how we expand our scope of practice is always a question for Tia and one that I think we need to approach on a state-by-state basis.’
On April 7, 2021, Tia published an article titled “Women’s Health is More than One Issue.” Written by Tia’s founders, the article rhetorically asks, “Given our strong and explicit pro-choice beliefs, why then does Tia not provide abortion services ourselves?” Tia then answers its own question by simply stating that “Tia is not equipped to provide abortion services” in full, but then explains that Tia refers patients to “trusted abortion provider[s] who [are] better equipped than we are to enable access to ‘all options’ – both medication and surgical abortion.”
On October 21, 2021, just six months after Tia entered into its partnership with CommonSpirit, Tia hosted a video discussion on “the importance of safeguarding abortion rights.”
Along with the video presentation, Tia asked viewers to “consider how we can all be true advocates for abortion access and health equity.”
Among the considerations, Tia asks, “What are three commitments I can make today for how I will show up for abortion access and reproductive freedom in this coming year?”
Tia begins providing medical abortion
On May 3, 2022, Witte published an article she wrote on her own LinkedIn page, announcing what Tia was going to do after a decision from the Supreme Court of the United States was leaked, marking an intention to overturn the Roe v. Wade decision.
On May 23, 2022, Marie Claire published an article titled “Tia Launches Fertility Services, While Cofounders Prepare For a ‘Post-Roe’ America.” Prompted by the leaked SCOTUS decision in the Dobbs v. Jackson case, Witte told Tia’s board of directors that the decision would “block Tia’s ability to support women in all scenarios and stages,” and that they needed to make preparations. According to the article:
In the past, Tia would refer patients to vetted partners, but Witte declared it was time for Tia to expand its scope of abortion services.
In December, the FDA approved abortion medication by mail, removing the restrictive and sometimes dangerous requirement that women physically go to a clinic for a prescription. This unlocked the opportunity for Tia to directly provide medication abortions via virtual visits in the states in which it operates, which for now are New York and California. (In Arizona, where abortion via telemedicine is not permitted, Tia is closely collaborating with a local clinic.) [Emphases added]
What this means is that over a year into its partnership with CommonSpirit Health, Tia had already been making abortion referrals to third parties. Worse yet, Tia made preparations to provide telemed abortions, and in Arizona – where CommonSpirit launched its partnership with Tia – the organization was collaborating with an unidentified “local clinic” for the provision of abortion.
On June 7, 2022, Tia used its partnership with CommonSpirit member Dignity Health to launch “fertility services” at the Tia Phoenix clinic. While the focus of the fertility services is primarily on things like fertility assessments and the causes of endometriosis, Witte made sure to mention abortion as well. She said:
As we look toward a post-Roe America, women’s fertility choices have taken on a whole new meaning. Like abortion, we believe that fertility care is healthcare, period, and an integral part of women’s comprehensive primary care. [Emphasis added]
Toward the end of 2022, in an annual “Top 5” survey on its own website, Tia claimed that women want abortion as a part of primary healthcare. Tia labeled point 3, “Primary care that integrates abortion care,” forcefully arguing for the integration of abortion as a part of primary healthcare for women:
Today, less than 1% of abortions occur in a primary care setting, but 90% of abortions could be managed by primary care doctors or nurses who can safely prescribe medication abortion to women who chose to terminate – a massive, underutilized lever for addressing the post-Roe ‘supply gap’ facing women in America. As a case in point – if every PCP in California alone started prescribing medication abortion as ‘standard’ primary care, we could cover the supply gap facing the 34 million women in restricted states who lost or are at risk of losing access.
What real women told us: 76% of women say that passing a national law that would require all states to keep abortion legal is priority for them and 68% of women say improving access to abortion pills is a priority. The message is clear: women want access to abortion as healthcare, and they’ll prioritize access at the polls. In the recent midterm elections, voters in all five states with abortion on the ballot decided to increase access to abortion.
Tia’s prediction for 2023: In 2023, we expect (and hope) to continue to see next-gen healthcare platforms leverage telehealth to expand access to medication abortion in primary care. And, given the centricity that abortion played in driving voters to the poll this year, we hope to see policy and lawmakers acting in response to voter’s wishes by further expanding access via regulation, states laws, and policies that address the ‘legal gray’ surrounding cross-state line navigation and care management. [Emphases added]
On March 27, 2023, Witte appeared on The Heart of Healthcare podcast to discuss “A New Standard of Care for Women.” In a transcript of the discussion, Witte spent a good amount of time discussing abortion as “primary care.” After being asked about the impact of advocating for abortion as primary care, Witte responded with the model provided by Tia. She said:
Tia actually refers out of primary care to specialized abortion providers. In service of our pro-choice all options model’s gonna fall flat. What are we gonna do if we have nowhere to refer? Right? And we saw really two different regulatory changes happening. One negative, obviously the threat to roe and one more positive, the changes that the FDA was making around prescribing and dispensing medication, abortion.
And we said, ‘Okay, let’s not just sit here reactively and wait for a bad thing to happen and just be reactive. Let’s actually be proactive and be part of the solution.’ And that’s when we decided to prepare ahead of the Dobbs ruling to expand our scope of practice and start providing medication abortion through our virtual care platform in a way that delivers high quality, safe, effective pregnancy termination care to women in the first trimester.
Witte was then asked why more primary care offices and hospitals weren’t doing what Tia is doing regarding abortion, and Witte responded by indicating that they needed to be shown a model that works. She said Tia’s goal and vision is to
Prove that it works and create a model that others can follow too. And we’ve done this both with the integration of medication abortion into a primary care context, but also with the integration of mental health and other types of services, not typically seen as bread and butter. [Emphasis added]
She then explained how Tia’s model actually works in practice, saying:
The way Tia delivers medication, abortion, we do it through our virtual care platform, which is legal in many states like California, in New York, but actually outlawed in other states that we operate like Arizona. And this legal gray area creates a lot of restrictions or fear I think more than anything else for providers to operate.
On June 23, 2023, FastCompany published an article titled “One year after the Dobbs decision, telehealth medication abortions are surging – but they’re under threat.” In that article, the author centered on Tia as providing the model for moving forward in a “post-Roe” America.
The article explains that before the Dobbs decision, Tia had only referred to third parties who commit abortions and that after Dobbs, Tia began providing medical abortions. It then quotes Witte, who explained the thought process behind the decision, while keeping an eye on expanding access to states with “restricted access” to abortion:
‘The thinking behind that was ‘What are we going to do if there’s fewer places to refer our patients?’ particularly both in states like California even but also in restricted states and we needed to take a state by state approach,’ says Witte.
Abortions at Tia
Tia’s entry for gynecology services lists abortion as one of the services it provides, saying, “We offer medication abortion at home.”
An FAQ entry on Tia’s website asks, “Do you provide abortion services?” Tia’s answer is:
Tia provides medication abortion as allowed by law. Today, we provide medication abortion via a virtual visit in New York and California. Depending on a patient’s needs, we can provide education and counseling covering any and all options – including parenting, adoption, and pregnancy termination – and offer mental health support (if needed) and well-coordinated care with other trusted, high-quality providers for services we do not provide ourselves. [Emphases added]
As for the Tia clinic in Phoenix – the one connected to CommonSpirit Health – while it does not currently provide abortions at this location, it does provide abortifacient contraception. Tia Phoenix states on its website that it provides assistance with finding the “right” form of contraception and IUD implants at this location, meaning CommonSpirit is a majority owner in a clinic that is directly promoting and providing abortifacient contraception.
When CommonSpirit Health agreed to partner with Tia Women’s Health, there is no way it would not have known about Tia’s intention to eventually provide abortion as a “service,” or would it have been ignorant of Tia’s provision of abortifacient contraception. The entire scope of Tia’s operation is wrapped around abortion and birth control in a similar manner to Planned Parenthood. The primary difference is that Tia is seeking a more “sanitized” appearance by providing robes, candles, soothing music, and acupuncture to women before offering to kill their preborn babies.
The bottom line is that Tia Women’s Health is the newest model for an abortion clinic, or Planned Parenthood 2.0.
Through its partnership with CommonSpirit, Tia has gained access to women it never would have been able to access before. It has gained prestige and leverage for fundraising that would not otherwise have been so easily accessible, propelling what was little more than a birth control app to a $100 million operation.
Despite the fact that CommonSpirit is a “Catholic” entity, it is Catholic in name only. While it is assisting a glorified birth control clinic to contend with Planned Parenthood as the new big box retailer of abortion, CommonSpirit Health is also performing supposed transgender surgeries, transgender hormone therapies, and even providing puberty blockers to children.
The Lepanto Institute is continuing its call for a complete canonical investigation of CommonSpirit Health for the purpose of stripping it entirely of its Catholic identity.
Reprinted with permission from the Lepanto Institute.