NBCPhiladelphia.com - Rosemary Connors
Abington Health announced plans Wednesday to merge with Holy Redeemer Health System to form a brand new regional health network, Abington Health officials said. The move will mean Abington Hospital will no longer offer abortions, out of respect to Holy Redeemer. The news has many abortion rights groups angry, including Planned Parenthood. NBC10's Rosemary Connors spoke with Susan Schewel of Women's Medical Fund as well as residents who voiced their opinion on the planned merger.
The proposed merger of two Montgomery County-based hospitals is going to bring to an end to abortions for one of the health systems.
Abington Health and Holy Redeemer Health System leaders announced Wednesday that they have a letter of intent to merge into one regional health system.
As part of the new health group, Abington announced they would no longer offer abortions out of respect for Huntingdon Valley-based Holy Redeemer’s Catholic mission.
“Abington Health will continue to provide a full-range of services of women’s health and reproductive services except for abortions,” said Abington Health President and CEO Larry Merlis.
Holy Redeemer is “a Catholic Health System, rooted in the tradition of the Sisters of the Holy Redeemer, we care, comfort, and heal following the example of Jesus, proclaiming the hope God offers in the midst of human struggle,” according to the health group’s website.
“We wanted assure that we would be able to provide assurances that Holy Redeemer would continue to fully comply with ethical and religious directives -- and all the Catholic entities of our new organization would,” said Merlis. “But at Abington we would want to assure that we were also providing that full range of services -- we have tremendous women’s health services between both organizations and reproductive health services.
“But we, moving forward, would no longer do abortions at Abington.”
The decision by Abington to honor Redeemer's Pro-Life stance and end abortions as part of their family planning department came as a disappointment for pro-choice advocates.
“Women seeking abortion in Pennsylvania already have limited options. It’s unfortunate that a longstanding provider of this critically needed care has chosen to succumb to pressure and is discontinuing these services,” said Planned Parenthood Southeastern Pennsylvania President and CEO Dayle Steinberg.
Abington will continue to offer abortion services until the new health system officially takes place next year.
The proposed merger could take months to become reality as both groups do due diligence on the other. It would likely take until 2013 -- possibly in the spring -- for the merger to go through.
“We have been in discussions for quite some time regarding a closer affiliation of our two health systems,” said Holy Redeemer Health System President and CEO Michael Laign.
Abington Health is one of the largest employers in Montgomery County with more than 6,100 workers. Holy Redeemer has more than 4,600 employees.
The companies say that they don’t expect any layoffs as part of the merger as doctors at Abington, Holy Redeemer and Lansdale Hospitals remain independent.
“This is the first of many steps toward creating a new parent organization that will bring opportunities for quality enhancements and greater efficiencies,” said Merlis.
Merlis would become the CEO of the new combined health system.