Lawmakers to University of California: Cut partnership with religious health providers

The lawmakers urged the university to refuse to limit healthcare based on “religious doctrine.”

U.S. members of Congress from California and the California Legislative LGBTQ Caucus are urging the University of California to cut ties with religiously affiliated health providers.

More than three dozen members of Congress from California wrote a letter to the University of California Board of Regents, demanding that the school end healthcare partnerships with organizations that may deny services due to their deeply held religious objections.

Earlier this year, the university questioned a partnership with the Roman Catholic nonprofit Dignity Health over potential denial of abortions and LGBTQ-related services, according to the Daily Cal.

The letter from members of the California congressional delegation expresses “serious concerns over the University of California’s affiliations that impose religious restrictions on UC providers, students, and patients, limiting the kind of medically necessary care they can provide and receive.” Among these “necessary” restrictions are “LGBTQ-inclusive care,” abortions, and contraception. 

The authors assert that denial of this care can be “life-threatening.”

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The letter also expresses concern that “hospitals with Catholic religious directives often prohibit many types of medical services that communities of color critically rely upon, particularly in the areas of reproductive and LGBTQ-inclusive health, where some of the deepest racial health inequities exist.”

Co-author Rep. Mark Takano told the Daily Cal that “UC must live up to its values and adopt guidelines that will cut ties with religiously affiliated health systems that discriminate and deny critical and life-saving care. Women and LGBTQ+ people already face barriers to care that threaten their health, we cannot support religious policies that will make healthcare even more difficult to access."

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The California Legislative LGBTQ Caucus wrote another letter with similar recommendations.

The Caucus’s letter likewise says denial of LGBTQ inclusive care, contraception, and abortion may be “life-threatening.”

The authors cite the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, which claims that “abortion is an essential, time-sensitive service.” They also laud Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom for recently loosening restrictions on abortion in California.

They also wrote that it is “deeply alarming” for the university to subject its healthcare professionals to “religious rules that hold that basic reproductive healthcare is impermissible, and that directly exclude LGBTQ patients.”

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They urged the university to adopt a rule that would refuse to limit healthcare based on “religious doctrine.”

Heather Harper, a spokeswoman for the University of California Health System, told Campus Reform that it is "pursuing amendments to certain existing contracts to revise language that may not accurately reflect UC values and expectations. Thus far, many agreements have been updated and more are expected to follow."

“UC will always respect the dignity of all persons without regard to race, color, national origin, religion, sex, gender identity, pregnancy, physical or mental disability, medical condition (cancer-related or genetic characteristics), ancestry, marital status, age, sexual orientation, citizenship, or status as a covered veteran,” said Harper. “The services available at UC facilities are provided to all members of the community without discrimination.”

Campus Reform reached out to Dignity Health for further comment but did not receive a response in time for publication. 

Follow the author of this article on Twitter: @BenZeisloft