Abortion opponents protest proposal

Valley News Staff Writer
Published: 2/8/2020 12:22:43 AM
Modified: 2/8/2020 12:22:30 AM

LEBANON — Anti-abortion activists are continuing to try to rally public opposition to a proposed combination of Dartmouth-Hitchcock Health and the health system including Catholic Medical Center.

A six-person panel at a forum in Manchester on Thursday evening told a small crowd that should the combination take effect, CMC and its supporters will be enabling the practice of abortion at other hospitals in the new system.

“We’re in a battle,” said Colleen McCormick Akey, a nurse anesthetist in the Manchester area who does not participate in abortion procedures, in a Facebook Live recording of the forum. “There’s a culture of life and a culture of death.”

The event, which was organized by New Hampshire Right to Life and held at the Manchester City Library, aimed to drum up opposition to the plan, which is under review by the Charitable Trusts Unit of the New Hampshire Attorney General’s Office. First announced in January 2019, D-HH — which in addition to the 396-bed Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center in Lebanon also includes four other hospitals — would join with GraniteOne Health, which in addition to the 330-bed CMC includes hospitals in Wolfeboro and Peterborough, N.H.

Thursday’s speakers said they oppose what the health systems are calling a “combination” and what the speakers called an “acquisition” because they said bringing a secular system together with a Catholic one will undermine both organization’s charitable missions. Abortions are not performed at CMC. D-H officials have said that of the women who seek obstetric care at DHMC, fewer than 5% elect to end their pregnancies.

Though the agreement gives the bishop who oversees the Catholic Church in New Hampshire, the Most Rev. Peter Libasci, authority over decisions related to CMC’s Catholic identity and compliance with Catholic ethics rules, New Hampshire Right to Life President Jason Hennessey said at Thursday’s forum that the combination would prevent CMC from actively promoting its own philosophy as a “pro-life” hospital.

An organization does “not accomplish a mission by saying no to things,” Hennessey said.

Last fall, Libasci issued a declaration of no objection to the combination, which the hospitals say will strengthen New Hampshire’s health care system, and the Philadelphia-based National Catholic Bioethics Center issued an analysis that found the transaction “morally sound.”

Two former Republican state representatives from Manchester, Barbara Hagan and Kathleen Souza, said at the forum that this is the third attempt to bring together the state’s secular academic medical center with CMC that they have worked to stymie.

“We must stand up and say this is human life,” said Hagan. “We must protect it.”

Hagan helped lead opposition to a proposed merger between D-H and Catholic Medical Center a decade ago. Then-New Hampshire Attorney General Michael Delaney ruled against it, likening it to a takeover of the Manchester-based hospital by D-H.

Planned Parenthood of Northern New England has not taken a position on the D-H/CMC proposal, said PPNNE spokesman Derek Edry in an email.

CMC spokeswoman Lauren Collins-Cline said in a Friday email that the two health systems have worked to preserve CMC’s Catholic identity.

“Under this agreement, CMC remains — now and always — a Catholic hospital, practicing Christ’s healing ministry and offering health, healing, and hope to all who seek our care,” Collins-Cline said.

Collins-Cline said CMC officials have provided information to the public as well as leaders of New Hampshire Right to Life over the course of the past year. Anti-abortion activists also expressed their opposition during a listening session at DHMC last May.

“It is unfortunate that they refuse to recognize the opportunity this Combination creates to strengthen and preserve our state’s largest and oldest Catholic health care institution when so many others — including the Bishop and the National Catholic Bioethics Center — have,” Collins-Cline said.

Dartmouth-Hitchcock spokesman Rick Adams said that the views expressed at Thursday night’s forum were mostly “based on misinformation and lack of understanding of the proposed combination between Dartmouth-Hitchcock Health and GraniteOne Health.”

He said the hospitals have “been fully transparent about the proposed combination” and invited those seeking more information to visit the website ForAHealthierNH.org. The legal documents can be found online at https://www.doj.nh.gov/charitable-trusts/graniteone-health.htm.

Public comments are due to the At torney General’s Office by April 2. The Att orney General’s Office’s report on the proposal is due by April 28.

Nora Doyle-Burr can be reached at ndoyleburr@vnews.com or 603-727- 3213.

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