Hundreds of protestors rallied outside of a hospital in Orange County, Calif. Thursday carrying signs reading, "Abortion is murder" and "Hoag [Hospital] saves lives."
The demonstrators debated one another and shouted their feelings -- some in support of abortion, others against it -- in response to Hoag Hospital's announcement last month that it would no longer offer elective abortions, Patch reports.
Late last fall, Hoag Hospital -- which is Presbyterian -- became affiliated with St. Joseph’s Hospital, which is a Catholic. But Hoag officials maintain the abortion policy change has nothing to do with religion. Hoag CEO Robert Braithwaite blamed the change on staff incompetence, claiming that performing only 100 or so abortions every year increases the chances for medical mistakes, the OC Weekly reports. Eight physicians criticized the decision, and two Hoag donors withdrew their support over it.
Hoag is not the only hospital to recently move away from abortions. A growing number of mergers and partnerships nationwide between Catholic and non-Catholic hospitals has meant less access to abortions and sometimes to contraception and sterilization, the Los Angeles Times reports.
The California attorney general's office is investigating whether Hoag is doing enough to ensure that there are accessible alternatives for elective abortions, especially for low-income women, according to the Times.
“The No. 1 thing a hospital has to have is credibility, and I think they're taking a risk,” Suzanne Savary, president of the Newport Beach Democratic Women's Club, told the Times. “I don't think women's groups are going to let it go away.”
On the other side of the protestors, Kristina Garza, 27, of Rancho Cucamonga, stood by Hoag, telling the Daily Pilot, "We are appreciative of their desire to save lives."
Meanwhile, Hoag officials tried to remain apolitical.
“It is unfortunate that a decision made with the community’s best interest in mind has been misrepresented as part of a larger political agenda. It simply is not,” Nina Robinson, a Hoag Hospital spokeswoman, wrote in a statement, CBS reports.
Hospital officials said they would continue to provide abortion in the cases of rape or incest and to provide emergency pregnancy prevention (like the Plan B pill).
CORRECTION: A previous version of this article suggested that Hoag is a Catholic hospital when in fact is is a Presbyterian hospital that has recently partnered with a Catholic hospital.