State lawmakers want to square conflicting health care values between public University of California hospitals and Catholic hospitals that collaborate on patient care, under a new bill introduced Wednesday by state Sen. Scott Wiener, D-San Francisco.

Under longstanding agreements between UC Health and Catholic hospital systems like Dignity Health or St. Joseph Health, UC doctors and medical students who provide care inside Catholic hospitals must abide by Catholic Church directives that prohibit abortions, sterilizations, contraception, some end-of-life options and gender affirmation surgery.

Wiener says this makes the public university system complicit in discriminating against women and transgender patients. Senate Bill 372 would require UC health systems to renegotiate these agreements with Catholic hospitals to either allow UC staff to provide all care they deem medically necessary, or to end those affiliations altogether.

But Catholic hospitals said canceling these partnerships would likely harm health care access. “It would absolutely devastate access to health care for the most vulnerable,” said Lori Dangberg, vice president of the Alliance of Catholic Health Care, a trade group for Catholic hospitals. “At a time when COVID-19 is placing unprecedented demands on our state’s health care providers, any effort to weaken the safety net would only harm the state’s most vulnerable patients.” In addition, Dangberg pointed out that partnerships provide other hard-to-access care across the state, particularly in rural areas.

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