ACLU concerned over Walgreens partnership with Catholic hospital
December 17, 2015 (LifeSiteNews) – The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and 19 other groups wrote a letter to the Walgreens drugstore chain this week, worried over its recent agreement with a Catholic hospital to operate its in-store health clinics in two Pacific Northwest states.
A partnership between Walgreens and Providence Health, announced in August, will outsource the clinics to Providence in Washington State and Oregon. The arrangement prompted the ACLU-led group to make contact, asking whether the clinics would provide contraception, abortifacients, and also euthanasia drugs, since the latter is legal in both states.
Also among the coalition approaching Walgreens were Planned Parenthood and NARAL, as well as the pro-euthanasia activist group Compassion & Choices, according to the Chicago Tribune, along with some homosexual activist groups.
"In our states, we have consistently seen that when secular entities join with religious health systems, the services, information, or referrals provided at the secular entity become limited by religious doctrine," the letter stated.
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The letter to Walgreens also inquired whether the drugstore would continue to serve customers equally, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity, questioning as well if transgender men or women would be able to fill prescriptions for hormone therapy at the clinics.
"Can Walgreens offer assurances that its LGBTQ customers and LGBTQ patients at the clinics will be treated with dignity and respect and will receive the same medical standard of care as any other customer?" the groups asked.
The ACLU has threatened or brought legal action against Catholic health care providers and entities several times in recent years for not providing abortion and sterilization in accord with Catholic teaching.
The civil rights group has repeatedly attacked the Ethical and Religious Directives for Catholic Health Care Services. Issued by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) in 2009, the directives express the Church's moral teaching for institutionally based Catholic healthcare services.
A spokesperson for Providence Health said that the types of ailments normally dealt with by in-store clinics would not touch upon the issues raised in the activists' letter.
"Retail care is meant to treat episodic conditions," the spokesperson said in a report from BizJournal.com. "Other, more in-depth issues would be referred to primary or specialty care."
"Anyone visiting Express Care will be treated with the same respect, care and compassion, regardless of their age, race, color, creed, ethnicity, religion, national origin, marital status, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, disability, veteran or military status, or any other basis prohibited by federal, state, or local law," a statement from the health provider said. "Our mission is to care for everyone."
Walgreens has approximately 400 in-store health clinics nationwide currently and plans for roughly 25 Providence Health-run clinics to open in its Washington and Oregon locations.