The proposed sale that would transfer two Exempla Healthcare hospitals in the Denver metropolitan area to a Catholic organization that does not allow abortion and birth-control procedures at its facilities has been endorsed by Colorado Attorney General John Suthers.

The hospitals, Lutheran and Good Samaritan, soon could fall under the management of Catholic Health Care Services, which, among other things, does not provide abortions, forms of sterilization including tubal ligation and vasectomies, and emergency contraception pills, known as the abortion pill.

Suthers concluded in his legal opinion that the transfer wouldn’t violate state laws concerning nonprofit groups, and that the incoming owner, Sisters of Charity Leavenworth Health System, of Lenexa, Kan., had the authority to change procedures at the hospitals, according to a Denver Post report.

“The General Assembly mandated that a single, narrow standard of review should apply in nonprofit to nonprofit hospital tranfers,” he wrote. “I recognize the strong emotional and political concerns surrounding this transfer, but per the statute, those concerns cannot alter the legal standard of review.”

Civic groups in Jefferson County, where Lutheran is the only hospital, said the “disadvantaged” and those in emergency situations could be hurt.

Ed Kahn’s organization, the Colorado Center of Law and Policy, has filed a lawsuit over the transfer, and said services such as the abortion pill “are services that are critical for people.”

Suthers had reviewed the proposal at the request of the Exempla board, whose members supported the plan until the Sisters of Charity’s plans regarding abortion services were publicized.

The Exempla system now manages a partnership that runs Lutheran, in Wheat Ridge, and Good Samaritan, in Lafayette, and the Sisters of Charity, which sponsors St. Joseph in Denver.

The plan has Sisters of Charity paying the partnership $311 million and agreeing to invest $300 million in Lutheran and Good Samaritan and taking control of all three hospitals.

Physicians at Lutheran were “disappointed” Suthers “has taken such a narrow scope of review and had hoped he would more broadly consider the public interest,” Carla Murphy, Lutheran’s medical staff president, told the newspaper.

Bill Murray, of Sisters of Charity, praised the conclusion.

“Single sponsorship will strengthen local health-care services providing necessary resources for clinical excellence, new technology and service coordination,” he said.

The lawsuit, pending in Boulder District Court, over the move remains to be resolved.


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