ACLU Says WSU-Spokane Should Refuse Religious Medical Doctrines

By Paige Browning

WSU Spokane excitedly announced funding for six new medical residency spots in December. Now, the American Civil Liberties Union of Washington says the partnership that made the slots available could bind WSU to religious directives.
 
The resident students will work in a medical clinic at WSU Spokane. It’s made possible by a consortium of the school, Empire Health Foundation, and Providence Health, the latter of which is a Catholic health care organization. The ACLU says as a result, the clinic’s bylaws state it shall not, quote, “permit any medical procedure that offends the moral or ethical values or directives of Providence”. ACLU Policy Counsel Leah Rutman says this brings up concerns regarding separation of church and state.
 
Rutman: “We also have concerns about following other state laws, such as the reproductive privacy act, death with dignity act, and anti-discrimination laws, based on the language within the ERDs, and what that could mean.”
 
ACLU sent the Board of Regents a letter of concern. The ERDs – Ethical and Religious Directives- forbid or restrict services like abortion, contraception, and vasectomies.
 
WSU’s director of communications, Kathy Barnard, told us the nature of the Board of Regents process allows for public comment. She also said in her statement, “the letter from the ACLU was received in that spirit” and “the regents will consider these comments along with others at the September meeting”.
 
Rutman says the ACLU urges the board to vote no on funding the clinic unless they are assured education and services within will not be restricted. And asks WSU publicly state both the school and the consortium will not restrict services based on the ERDs.
 
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