In yesterday's Globe, Kay Lazar and I had a story about the latest development in Caritas Christi's plans to participate in the state's effort to provide health insurance to nearly every resident of Massachusetts. Caritas has entered a joint venture with a non-Catholic health company, Centene Corp., and has become entangled in a complicated controversy over the morality of its participation in a system that, by state law, provides coverage for abortion services. Those services would not be provided at Catholic hospitals, but critics say any relationship between Caritas and abortion providers is unacceptable.
Here's the lede to the story about Caritas Christi and abortion in the Globe:
Cardinal Sean P. O'Malley, concerned about the relationship between Caritas Christi Health Care and an insurance plan that covers abortions, is seeking modifications to the joint venture that the beleaguered Catholic hospital chain has entered into with a St. Louis-based healthcare company to provide insurance to low-income Massachusetts residents.
O'Malley, who has been criticized by several conservative Catholic and antiabortion activists for his handling of the Caritas venture, issued a statement yesterday declaring that "under no circumstances" will Caritas provide or refer patients for procedures prohibited by Catholic teaching, which include abortion, contraception, and sterilization.
And the Archdiocese of Boston said publicly for the first time yesterday that Caritas would not be permitted to profit from the provision of abortion services by others.
The archdiocese would not specify the changes it is seeking to the joint venture, called CeltiCare, which is 49 percent owned by Caritas Christi.
But the church sought to clarify its requirements for the deal after a number of conservative bloggers and interest groups had recently criticized the venture, accusing O'Malley, often in quite angry language, of abandoning the church's commitment to protecting the unborn.
This week, many of the activists have seized upon, as evidence of the problematic nature of the venture, the new website of CeltiCare. The website specifies the copayments for abortions (from 0 to $100, depending on the plan), and lists family planning and reproductive service providers, including Planned Parenthood facilities in Boston, Somerville, and Worcester.
The president of Caritas Christi, Dr. Ralph de la Torre, issued a statement yesterday saying that individuals covered under the new venture will be told to talk to their insurance company if they seek abortions or other services prohibited by Catholic teaching.
"When a patient seeks such a procedure, Caritas healthcare professionals will be clear that (a) the hospital does not perform them and (b) the patient must turn to his or her insurer for further guidance," de la Torre said. "This, in fact, is the practice currently in place in the Caritas system as we work with other insurance companies under state laws that mandate access to procedures not provided within the Caritas system."
Conservative critics of the deal are not mollified. The archdiocese expects to announce the final structure of the Caritas deal, and the cardinal's ruling as to whether it is acceptable, before July 1. The cardinal has the power to block the deal, but the archdiocese is hoping that will not be necessary, both because the cardinal wants Caritas to be able to participate in a system intended to extend health coverage to low-income people who could not previously afford it, and also because the arrangement would generate income for Caritas, which has been financially struggling.