WA AG Issues Opinion On Hospital Districts

By Ruby de Luna

Public hospital districts that provide maternity care must also ensure that abortion and contraception services are available to women.

The State Attorney General office released that opinion Wednesday. The opinion is in response to recent hospital consolidations and partnerships. Many of these transactions have been controversial because they involve faith-based institutions. Critics say these partnerships could limit access to care, especially when it comes to services like abortion.

Attorney general Bob Ferguson says this opinion is narrow; it does not apply to private hospitals. It doesn’t address the issue of hospital mergers and partnerships. Instead, it looks only at specific services that public hospitals provide.

Ferguson: “At the end of the day, if you’re a hospital, public hospital that provides maternity services, if you do that, then you must provide substantially equivalent services related to contraception and abortion.”

Hospitals have been consolidating and forming partnerships in order to survive. The pace has picked up in recent years. Ferguson estimates there are about 50 hospital districts in Washington that use tax dollars to fund the health needs in communities.

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