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Changes in store for Farragut’s Baptist Hospital for Women

The merger between Baptist Health System and St. Mary’s Health System will mean big changes for Baptist Hospital for Women.

The new organization, Mercy Healthcare Partners, does not allow for tubal ligations or fertility and reproductive services within the system.

Jerry Askew, Mercy Health Partners senior vice president for external affairs, said, “The new combined Mercy Health Partners is a part of Catholic Healthcare Partners. All of the members of Catholic Healthcare Partners, which is our parent organization, abide by the ethical and religious directives of the Catholic Church, and that was always a part of the


“In fact, it was stated in the media on multiple occasions that the new system would abide by the Ethical and Religious Directives. Everybody understood that on the front end.”

The Ethical and Religious Directives for Catholic Health Care Services, Fourth Edition, defines a Catholic healthcare institution as a community that gives health care to those in need of it and declares the services must be “animated by the Gospel of Jesus Christ and guided by the moral tradition of the Church. It also requires that any Catholic health care service must “adopt these Directives as policy.”

The Directives state the Church’s commitment to the dignity of marriage and of the marriage act by which life is transmitted, and say the Church cannot approve medical practices that “undermine the biological, psychological and moral bonds on which the strength of marriage and family depends.”

Mercy Health Partners vice president of mission integration Becky Dobson said, “The basis for the ‘Beginning of Life Directives’ are, first, the sanctity of life in a variety of forms and, secondly, it has to do with the church’s position that the purpose of marriage and all that comes with marriage is to be unitive and procreative.

“When you provide procedures that circumvent that purpose that is where the conflict is,” she added.

For this reason Southeastern Center for Fertility and Reproductive Surgery and the National Embryo Donation Center will vacate their offices located at Baptist Hospital for Women in October when their leases expire.

Dobson offered some insight into CHP’s prohibition of in vitro fertilization and surrogate


“It has to do with the actual marital sexual act. The purpose of that act in marriage is to provide physical union for the couple and to procreate. So if you are fertilizing outside the actual act, then you are not having the unity between the couples,” Dobson said.

The Rev. Ragan Schriver, president of Catholic Charities, said the Church also is concerned surrogacy denigrates the


“As I understand it from being in seminary, the reason the Church does not want surrogates is because it is a utilitarian use of a human person.

”If you were having a baby naturally, then hopefully it comes from two people who love each other, and out of that love comes life,” he added.

In regard to tubal ligations or any form of permanent birth control, the Directives cite Pope John VI’s Encyclical Letter, “On the Regulation of Birth,” in which he said the Church could not approve contraceptive interventions that “render procreation impossible.”

“That gets to the second part of the directives and that is the procreative part of the marital union, they [the Church] feel like God created man and woman the way they are to come together and create children, that is the purpose of marriage, to come together and create children, and with birth control you are preventing that process,” Dobson said.

Tubal ligations and birth control are allowed in instances of medical necessity.

“The directives say you can remove the [fallopian] tubes and in most cases you are removing the whole reproduction organ, if you are trying to cure or alleviate present pathology,” Dobson said.

“ Or if you are giving birth control and the intent is not to control birth, but to treat [menstrual] problems or acne. It has to do with the intent,” she added

Askew said it is important for the community to understand that they are not permanently losing these services.

“The important thing to know is that these services will still exist, they just will not be affiliated with Baptist after October.

“St Mary’s hasn’t done this type of thing for 77 years and it has always been known as the leading women’s hospital in the region, so we are surprised that this has gotten any attention,” he added.


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