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Trans people could lose access to health care if this large hospital joins a Catholic network

A doctor and a patient
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Health care professionals are protesting a proposed hospital merger because they would be forced to deny care to transgender people.

The University of California’s hospital in San Francisco is considering a merger with the Catholic hospital system Dignity Health. Dignity has 39 hospitals.

Because Dignity is Catholic and follows the doctrines of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, doctors and other health care workers there are banned from performing abortions, in vitro fertilization, doctor-assisted suicide, and any gender-affirming care for transgender people.

The hospital chain is currently fighting two lawsuits from the ACLU. In one case, the hospital refused to provide a hysterectomy to a trans man.

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The hospital was willing to perform the procedure until one day before the operation, when they found out it was part of his transition.

“It devastated me, and I don’t want it to affect my transgender brothers and sisters the way it affected me,” he said. “No one should have to go through that.”

Now 1,500 University of California faculty members, residents, students, and alumni have signed a letter opposing the merger.

“Our affiliation with [Dignity] not only compromises the safety and quality of our patient care, but also threatens the integrity of our reputation as a provider of evidence-based care in an inclusive environment free of bias and discrimination,” the letter states.

Supporters of the merger say that the University of California hospital desperately needs more access to beds and space.

“I feel a little like women’s health has been portrayed as a casualty of this negotiating,” Dana Gossett, a University of California San Francisco obstetrician-gynecologist, told the Sacramento Bee.

“But as someone who works in labor and delivery and is in the trenches every day, I see it differently. I see the damages our capacity problems have on women right now because we haven’t expanded our capacity enough to meet the need.”

Supporters say that there are protections in place to prevent people from being denied health care. Doctors and staff at the University of California hospital will be allowed to perform procedures forbidden by the Conference of Catholic Bishops, and patients at Dignity who need that care will be transferred over to the University of California hospital.

But that’s not enough to reassure the University of California’s progressive faculty.

“We don’t know what the future really looks like,” Lori Freedman, a University of California professor of reproductive health care at Catholic hospitals, said. “Sometimes workarounds don’t stick around.”

According to the Sacramento Bee, the number of Catholic-owned or -affiliated hospitals increased by 22% from 2001 to 2016.

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