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Michaela Dasteel In the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishop’s Ethical and Religious Directives for Catholic Health Care Services, directive 45 states that Catholic health-care facilities are not to provide abortion, “even based upon the principle of material cooperation. In this context, Catholic health-care institutions need to be concerned about the danger of scandal in any association with abortion providers.”1 Directive 67 goes on to say,

Having such a physician on staff at a Catholic hospital certainly creates the danger of scandal, even though no abortion procedures are being performed on the premises of the hospital. However, a Catholic facility faced with this type of situation must tread carefully before considering termination of the physician’s staff privileges in order not to give the physician a viable, federal cause of action.

If the individual is so notorious in the community that his or her activities give rise to scandal, as that term is used in the Directives, then perhaps the health-care provider can argue that its constitutional right to the free exercise of religion supersedes the statutory protection provided to the physician. However, winning this kind of case would be extremely difficult, time-consuming, and expensive. Close scrutiny of the facts of the situation by counsel is strongly encouraged to minimize the negative legal ramifications of any decision.”


Dr. Richard Grossman, who has been Planned Parenthood’s abortionist in Durango, Colorado, for over two decades, is also affiliated with the largest obstetric and gynecology group in the area and has privileges at the local Catholic Hospital, Mercy Regional Medical Center (the only hospital in a radius of fifty miles). He is listed on the Mercy Hospital Web site as being part of their obstetric and gynecology staff. He is not a stereotypical abortionist (in it for the money) but is a prominent community leader, author of a monthly column in the Durango Herald titled “Population Matters,” and a member or director of several important organizations, including the Durango Friends Meeting (Quaker).

Everywhere one turns in Durango, Dr. Grossman is lauded as a high-minded, principled man. A good man. An idealist and seeker of truth. His obstetric and gynecology patients acknowledge his great skill and compassion. He is, in fact, the most dangerous kind of abortion-ist—one who does it for “moral” reasons. In a 2003 article for the Quaker Eco-Bulletin, he explains his population control philosophy,


Abortionists are protected from dismissal primarily because the law also protects Catholic hospitals from reprisals when they refuse to do abortions and sterilizations. No serious-minded Catholic would choose to work at a Planned Parenthood clinic, but pro-abortion physicians have no qualms about working at an institution where the understanding of life is the opposite of their own. The solution to this problem is to challenge the law. Recent defeats over mandatory contraceptive coverage in California and New York are cause for gloom, but our opposition to the evil of abortion, and our reasons for that opposition, are widely understood.

Beyond that, we need to exercise more care when we consider granting privileges to physicians at Catholic hospitals. A questionnaire should be used to help determine which physicians are abortion providers. The same instrument should screen out those who practice in vitro fertilization. Once these physicians are ensconced in Catholic facilities, it is very difficult to remove them. Every diocese should have a health-care liaison, and local parish priests should keep their bishop informed as to what is going on at the hospitals as they make their rounds. Ideally, the bishop would have a representative on the board of each Catholic hospital in his diocese.

Outside the Catholic Church, the sanctity of human life has become a foreign concept, replaced in the last ten years by proportionalism and the “dictatorship of relativism,” so beautifully identified by Pope Benedict XVI. If Catholic hospitals must grant privileges to abortionists in order to receive the federal money they need to serve the poor, what good is their Catholic identity? A Church that tolerates abortionists on staff in its hospitals is not a prophetic Church. It is a Church checkmated by the culture of death.


Michaela Dasteel
Durango, Colorado

U. S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, Ethical and Religious Directives for Catholic Health Care Services, 4th ed. (Washington, D.C.: USCCB, 2001).
Catechism of the Catholic Church, nn. 2284–2285.
U.S. Code, Title 42, Chapter 6A, Subchapter VIII, Sec. 300a–7, http://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/html/uscode42/usc_sec_42_00000300—a007-.html.
Peter Leibold and Charles S. Gilham, “When Physicians Perform Abortions Outside the Catholic Hospital, ” Health Progress 79.2 (March–April 1998): 12–14.
Richard Grossman, “Emergency Contraception, Abortion, and Population Stabilization: One Friend Addresses Some Difficult Issues” Quaker Eco-Bulletin 3.2 (March–April 2003): 1–4.