NEWPORT BEACH (CNS) - Hoag Memorial Hospital Presbyterian may continue refusing elective abortions as long as patients are provided with options to seek the procedure elsewhere, according to an agreement with the state obtained today by City News Service.
The Newport Beach hospital stopped offering elective abortions in May 2013, triggering criticism from some physicians and abortion rights supporters.
Hoag acted after partnering with St. Joseph Health System, a Roman Catholic organization, to create the Covenant Health Network, which has expanded medical services to the region's needy.
“Hoag Memorial Hospital Presbyterian shall take steps to ensure that alternative (abortion) providers are available and accessible to all women” in its service area, the agreement with the state says.
The Attorney General's Office had begun investigating the partnership between Hoag and St. Joseph's “in response to concerns raised by members of the public, physicians affiliated with Hoag, and others” about the ban on elective abortions, according to the agreement.
Hoag also agreed for the next 20 years to continue providing reproductive health services other than abortions, including contraceptive procedures such as tubal ligations, even if they conflict with St. Joseph's religious beliefs.
Last year, Attorney General Kamala Harris conditionally approved Hoag's affiliation with St. Joseph's. One of the conditions was that Hoag maintain women's services for at least 10 years.
Hoag CEO and President Robert Braithwaite has said St. Joseph's opposition to abortion was not the only reason the hospital decided to stop offering the procedure.
He noted that demand for abortions at Hoag has significantly declined over the past several years because most women prefer to undergo the procedure in their physician's office or surgery centers for privacy and cost reasons.
Braithwaite signed the agreement with the Attorney General's Office March 19, while a supervising deputy for the state's top attorney signed it last Friday.
“We fully support these clarifications of the (AG's) original conditions” for approving the partnership with St. Joseph's, Braithwaite said in a statement today.