By Kathleen Gilbert

BRAINTREE, Massachusetts, May 21, 2009 ( – Pro-life and Catholic advocates are voicing concern that Boston Catholic hospitals may soon refer for abortions as part of a joint medical venture it won last week, and which reportedly requires access to “family planning” services including abortion, contraception, and sterilization. 

The archdiocesan-owned Caritas Christi Health Care network first raised questions in February after it was revealed that the networks’ hospitals had joined with Centene Corp. to bid on a state-subsidized health insurance contract, called the Commonwealth Family Health Plan.  According to joint statements by Caritas/Centene, the contract requires access to abortion, contraception and sterilization, or at least referral for such services.  The joint venture is expected to take effect July 1.

The bid to take over the Commonwealth Family Health Plan “will contract with providers, both in and out of the Caritas network, to ensure access to all services required by [the state], including confidential family planning services,” said a February statement.

Caritas spokeswoman Teresa Prego later issued a statement to the Boston Globe, which broke the story, saying that Caritas was merely “considering a minority investment in this insurance plan,” and claiming that the hospitals would comply with Catholic Church moral teaching.

“Caritas Christi Health Care wishes to make clear that at all times and in all cases we will observe the Ethical and Religious Directives of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops and the basic principles of Catholic moral theology,” Prego said.  “Applying for participation in the connector is a complex public policy process. We will carefully investigate all aspects of this proposed relationship in order to insure that Caritas Christi’s participation will be in accord with Catholic teaching.”

In March, the archdiocese announced it would ensure the Church’s moral teaching was upheld, and deferred the decision to go forward with the plan to the National Catholic Bioethics Center.  No decision has yet been announced by the NCBC.

“Caritas Christi will never do anything to promote abortions, to direct any patients to providers of abortion, or in any way to participate in actions that are contrary to Catholic moral teaching, and anyone who suggests otherwise is doing a great disservice to the Catholic Church,” Boston Cardinal Sean O’Malley wrote on his blog.

However, according to the Catholic Action League of Massachusetts, the Commonwealth Health Insurance Connector Authority Board awarded the contract last week after Caritas/Centene assured the panel that women will have “ready access” to family planning services.

Also last week, Boston Globe religion writer Michael Paulson said that Caritas declined to answer questions on how the new venture could work, given Catholic moral teaching that prohibits involvement in abortion, including referring for the procedure.

The archdiocese did not return repeated calls from as of press time.

The American Life League strongly criticized the Archdiocese of Boston for allowing the joint venture, which the group says is the first of its kind.   

“Since when is the Catholic Church in the business of referring women to the nearest abortion mill?” asked American Life League president Judie Brown.

Catholic Action League executive director C. J. Doyle commented: “If Caritas actually intended to accept tax dollars while evading state demands for abortion coverage, every voice on the political left would be raised against it – in the media, in the Legislature, and among the advocacy groups.  Instead, we have heard nothing but silence from the usual adversaries of the Church.

“The only solution is for Caritas to withdraw from the contract,” said Doyle.

To contact the Archdiocese of Boston:

Cardinal Sean O’Malley
66 Brooks Drive
Braintree, MA 02184
Telephone: 617-254-0100
email form: