All five of Colorado’s Democratic U.S. representatives are condemning a decision by Mercy Hospital in Durango to stop allowing women to get their tubes tied, issuing a joint statement Thursday urging the Catholic hospital to reconsider.
“Every Coloradan, regardless of their zip code, has the right to bodily autonomy and deserves access to the full spectrum of reproductive health care — including permanent birth control measures,” the representatives said in an emailed news release. “As the only hospital in Durango with a maternity ward, Mercy Hospital’s decision to no longer provide patients with tubal ligations, including after a c-section, undermines Coloradans’ right to access the care they need.”
The reaction comes after a recent story in The Colorado Sun about the Catholic hospital’s “reeducation” of doctors and staff about the Catholic directives, which prohibit sterilization for the purpose of birth control.
The statement is signed by U.S. Reps. Diana DeGette, Yadira Caraveo, Jason Crow, Joe Neguse and Brittany Pettersen. All are part of the Congressional Pro-choice Caucus, of which DeGette, of Denver, is a co-chair.
The hospital posted a statement on its website in September saying that Mercy is “responsible for conducting itself in a manner consistent with the ethical principles of the Catholic church ministry.” Doctors told The Sun they were informed that beginning April 15, they can no longer provide post-cesarean section tubal ligations, a sterilization procedure in which the fallopian tubes are cut. Women who have decided not to have more children often have their tubes tied immediately after a C-section, when they are already under spinal anesthesia, sparing them from having to schedule a separate surgery.
The hospital already prohibited tubal ligations after vaginal births, but had been allowing them after C-sections because it had been considered an undue burden to make patients schedule a separate surgery at another hospital, doctors said. Obstetricians said they first learned about the policy change in August and September, when some spoke out in The Durango Herald.
The new policy is causing alarm as it comes when reproductive rights advocates are concerned about diminishing access to care after the fall of Roe v. Wade, which provided a constitutional right to an abortion. Colorado has a state law protecting abortion, but in some mountain areas, there is only one hospital. When that hospital is Catholic, such as in Durango and Frisco, women are not able to get tubal ligations.
“Colorado has a long history of safeguarding patients’ right to reproductive care, and that includes ensuring patients living in more rural parts of the state have access to the health care they need,” the representatives’ statement said. “When the only hospital in town decides it will no longer offer a certain medical service, it takes away the right of patients in that area to make that decision for themselves.
“We believe Centura Health should reconsider this policy change. Our constituents must be able to access the care they need and deserve.”
Mercy Hospital is part of Centura Health, which announced this week that it is splitting up. Centura Health has operated as a partnership between the Catholic-affiliated CommonSpirit Health and the Seventh-day Adventist-affiliated AdventHealth. The system ran 16 hospitals in Colorado and three in Kansas.
Centura did not immediately respond to a request for comment about the representatives’ statement.