Much of the Jewish community along the Old York Road corridor is up in arms over the proposed merger of Abington Health with Holy Redeemer Health System. They have good reason to be incensed.
As our cover story reports this week, both hospitals are being tight-lipped about the reasons for the merger and what the implications will be. The only substantive information regarding policy changes came in a statement declaring that no abortions would be performed under the merged system.
Abortion proponents have long targeted Abington Hospital, holding regular protests on the site for years. Now, it seems, they have won.
Residents of the community who look to Abington as the best medical facility in their neighborhood are rightly troubled about this possible change -- as well as what it might portend for other services.
Access to safe reproductive health care has long been a priority for the majority of American Jews. While most Jews are pro-choice for a variety of reasons, our tradition mandates abortion when it is necessary to save the life of the mother. No one views an abortion as a good thing, but in some painful instances, it is necessary when the physical or emotional well-being of a woman is at stake. Despite political and legislative efforts to thwart this right, abortion is still legal in this country and should be available at respected medical facilities that serve a broad clientele.
If a Catholic hospital wants to prohibit abortions, that is absolutely its right. But an institution like Abington, which serves a broader community, shouldn't limit those services.
As a group of rabbis wrote to the CEO of Abington: In making the decision to curtail abortion services "you are in effect saying that one religious tradition's teachings should take precedence over all others." Should Abington "commit to this path and refuse to perform abortion services, it would seriously undermine its status as a community hospital in any meaningful sense of the term."
Beyond the abortion issue, other questions remain: Will crosses appear in every room? Will there be end-of-life issues that would create conflict between the Catholic and non-Catholic communities being served?
As the two health systems move on to what they're calling "due diligence" while they hammer out the details of the proposed merger over the next few months, they need to seriously reconsider the implications of any policy changes. The public has the right to know what they can expect and what's driving such decisions.
Even as it considers its financial future, Abington Health risks losing the trust and patronage of a community that has long relied on -- and extolled -- its services.