- Tenet Health shareholders are being asked to approve a proposal requiring the hospital operator to lay out its policies regarding emergency abortions, and to clarify its statement that it will follow “faith-based commitments.”
- Venture capital firm Rhia Ventures, on behalf of the Marguerite Casey Foundation, sent a letter to shareholders Monday urging them to vote for an item at the upcoming annual shareholders meeting that requests more information on Tenet’s practices.
- The company’s board of directors has recommended voting against the item, stating that a company-wide policy is “not appropriate or applicable” beyond the requirement to follow state and federal laws.
After the Supreme Court overturned the constitutional right to abortion last year, providers were left scrambling to interpret new state laws banning or restricting the procedure. As more laws and legal opinions have emerged, the legality of the procedure remains murky for many of those in practice.
The shareholder letter argues that Tenet, which operates in 19 states that restrict abortion, faces legal, financial and reputational risks if it does not provide more transparency regarding abortions for medical emergencies.
The letter argues that Tenet’s statement in opposition to the proposal “is insufficient because there are numerous unresolved issues such as Tenet Health’s operation in Texas hospitals and Catholic hospitals, how Tenet instructs its physicians to balance the life and safety of the mother and unborn fetus, and how Tenet defines a medical emergency.”
After Roe v. Wade was overturned, the HHS issued guidance to providers, reminding them they are legally required to provide emergency care to patients, which could include an abortion. The guidance hinged on the Emergency Medical Treatment and Active Labor Act, or EMTALA, which requires hospitals to stabilize patients and transfer them if necessary.
A Texas judge, however, soon after ruled that EMTALA did not preempt state law, and barred the guidance from being enforced in Texas.
“It is insufficient and potentially misleading for Tenet to publicly state that it follows EMTALA, when the HHS interpretation of EMTALA has been judicially rejected in Texas,” the letter states.
Tenet also operates many Catholic hospitals, which are required to follow directives that do not allow abortion, with few exceptions. This also conflicts with EMTALA guidance.
In its statement in opposition to the proposal, Tenet said it will both abide by EMTALA and that its facilities will develop policies consistent with “faith-based commitments.”
Catholic hospitals are required to follow Ethical and Religious Directives for Catholic Health Care Services, which say abortion is not permitted with some “complex carve-outs” regarding emergency abortion, according to the letter.
The letter argues it is “impossible for Tenet to follow both EMTALA as well as the Catholic ERDs when it comes to emergency abortion. The Company should clarify which standards it requires Catholic hospitals to follow.”