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NOBODY'S PLOTTING AGAINST CATHOLIC HOSPITALS

As president and chief executive officer of Planned Parenthood of Niagara County, I felt the need to clarify some misleading statements in the March 11 News story about Bishop Henry Mansell's lobbying trip to Albany.

There is no legislative plot that would force Catholic hospitals to provide abortions or any other reproductive health-care service that would violate their religious beliefs. In fact, the notion that anyone is questioning Catholic hospitals' ability tooperate under their own religious guidelines is inaccurate.

The religious rules that govern Catholic hospitals became an issue when discussions regarding an alliance between Mount St. Mary's Hospital and Niagara Falls Memorial Medical Center began. This alliance means that patients will no longer have access to comprehensive reproductive health services such as birth control, tubal ligation, vasectomy and infertility procedures at both hospitals.

When neighboring religious and non-religious hospitals form a business partnership, they must agree to respect the historic mission and philosophy of both hospitals. The religious facility must be able to continue to follow its moral principles, and the non-religious hospital must remain free to provide a full range of reproductive health care for patients who want those services.

There are many existing models of how these goals may be achieved, while still enhancing the financial viability of both hospitals.

The idea that people who are concerned about losing reproductive health care would force their belief system on Catholic hospitals is not true. The great irony is that the opposite is true.

Religious rules that govern the Catholic hospitals are being forced upon our entire community, and this is a violation of a basic American principle -- freedom of religion. It also violates a patient's right to choose the health care that is best for her, without interference by an outside religious hierarchy.

Shellery D. Stuchell Niagara Falls

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