Albany Region Prompts Concern Over Access To Abortion

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Access To Abortion

Many community health leaders in the Albany, N.Y., area areconcerned about access to abortion in the region after the statemandated changes to three local hospitals, the Albany Times Union reports (Wechsler, Albany Times Union, 8/17). New York Gov. George Pataki (R) and the state Legislature in 2005 formed the Commission on Health Care Facilities in the 21st Century to recommend changes to the state's health care system, which is the most expensive in the country.

The commission in a December 2006 report recommended closing nine hospitals -- including Bellevue Woman's Hospital in Niskayuna, N.Y. -- and reconfiguring 48 hospitals in the state -- including merging St. Clare's Hospital with Ellis Hospital in Schenectady, N.Y. (Kaiser Daily Women's Health Policy Report,12/8/06). Officials from Bellevue and Ellis last month said thatBellevue will remain open for an undetermined amount of time underEllis management. The New York State Department of Health has recommended that Ellis take charge of all Bellevue's services by Nov. 1, according to hospital officials (Kaiser Daily Women's Health Policy Report, 7/23).

According to the Times Union, Ellis plans to sign an agreement to merge with St. Claire's in the next two months (Albany Times Union,8/17). St. Clare's, a Roman Catholic hospital, does not performabortions, while Ellis and Bellevue provide abortion services. The United States Conference of Catholic Bishopsprohibits Catholic hospitals from providing abortions, condoms, birthcontrol, assisted reproductive technology, tubal ligation orvasectomies (Kaiser Daily Women's Health Policy Report, 12/8/06).



At an Aug. 1 meeting, more than 70 physicians and staff from Bellevuegathered to discuss the hospital's future after the merger with EllisCEO James Connelly and David Liebers, Ellis' medical director, the Times Union reports.Mary Joyce McGinnis, an ob-gyn at Bellevue and St. Clare's, said thatat the meeting Connelly "was very clear that at some point there wouldbe no abortions done on Ellis property." She added Connelly said that"so long as any facility in the community provided abortions ... thatEllis was under no obligation to offer any provisions for them."

Bellevue CEO Anne Saile said Connelly's message at the meeting was that Ellis would serve as a backup to the Planned Parenthood Mohawk Hudsonclinic in Schenectady during emergencies. Paul Drisgula, executivedirector of PPMH, said he was told in recent talks with Ellis officialsthat Ellis would "continue to provide in-hospital back-up for all" PPMHpatients but would not offer abortions on a regular basis.

Connellysaid plans have not been finalized, adding that there currently are noplans for "discontinuing any services that are offered at Bellevue."According to Connelly, St. Clare's Catholic doctrines will not play arole in determining policies for abortion and other reproductiveservices.

Donna Evans, a spokesperson at Ellis, said whilethere are no immediate plans to make changes to the services offered atBellevue, the hospital is "examining and evaluating options" to makelong-term changes. Evans added that future plans for abortion couldinclude working with Planned Parenthood or offering abortions at Ellis'Medical Arts Building, a separate facility operated by the hospital.Bellevue performed about 180 abortions, and PPMH's Schenectady clinicperformed about 1,600 in 2006, the Times Union reports (Wechsler, Albany Times Union, 8/17).

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