By Michael Baggot

DENVER, CO, March 17, 2008 ( – The bill HB 1173, set for a final vote on Tuesday, would allow Colorado courts to dictate how charitable organizations, including Catholic hospitals, spend their funds.  Following the January introduction of HB 1173, two other bills also were introduced in Colorado that would further limit the freedom of faith-based hospitals to practice medicine in accord with their convictions. 

The three bills stem from the efforts of the Sisters of Charity of Leavenworth Health System to purchase control of two hospitals from Community First Foundation, thus making Lutheran Medical Center and Good Samaritan Medical Catholic facilities. 

According to the Colorado Catholic Conferences, “The outcome of this bill (1173) would be to allow courts to modify a charitable organization’s use of funds if it is thought that the funds are not being used appropriately.  This bill could seriously interfere with the pending hospital sale of Good Samaritan and Lutheran hospitals to the Sisters of Charity of Leavenworth.”

The bill HB 1203 forbids transactions between licensed hospitals that would hinder services such as abortion and sterilization.  Hence, HB 1203 would forbid the sale of the two hospitals to the Catholic Sisters of Charity. 

The bill SB 182 states that hospitals must supply any “essential health service.”  The government department of health is free to determine what “essential health service” is and can remove a hospital’s license for failing to offer any such service.  Thus, SB 182 would allow the government to declare abortion an “essential health service” and take licenses from hospitals that refuse to perform them.

“This is not a fight about a Catholic hospital.  This is fight over the freedom of any faith-based community service to BE faith-based – to be faithful to its beliefs, regardless of the prevailing winds of political correctness which may blow to the contrary,” stated Connie Marshner, Director of Governance for the Free Congress Foundation.

“If current legislation pending in Colorado passes, then the freedom of conscience of all religious hospitals can be destroyed the same way: by state legislation and regulation,” warned Marshner.

Catholic hospitals are expected to abide by the Ethical and Religious Directives of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops.  The ERD includes prohibitions against abortion, physician-assisted suicide, direct sterilization, the withholding of food and water from patients, and contraceptive procedures.

To avoid the ERD some professedly Catholic hospitals form a separate corporation for “women’s health services” that provides the sort of services the ERD forbids. 

Denver Archbishop Charles Chaput insists that Catholic hospitals have no connection whatsoever with ERD forbidden services, even if through separate corporations.  Insisting on fidelity to both the letter and spirit of the ERD, Chaput stated, “There is no such thing as ‘strictly’ or ‘loosely’ following Ethical and Religious Directives – any more than a person can be strictly or loosely faithful in a marriage.”

In November of 2007, the American College of Gynecology issued a statement insisting on the obligation of hospitals to supply services such as sterilization and abortion.  About a year earlier, the Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice issued a similar statement. 

Learn about the status of HB 1173, HB 1203, and SB 182:,com_frontpage/Itemid,11/