Presence Health to get $5.5M subsidy in spite of anti-abortion policy

SHARE Presence Health to get $5.5M subsidy in spite of anti-abortion policy

Ald. George Cardenas | Sun-Times File Photo

It looks like Illinois’ largest Catholic health system will finally get the $5.5 million city subsidy it was promised when it built its downtown headquarters four years ago – in spite of its anti-abortion policy.

The Chicago City Council’s Finance Committee signed off on the tax-increment-financing (TIF) subsidy Friday after a lengthy and sometimes emotional debate on a hot-button issue.

The vote was 13-to-7, which is fairly close by the Finance Committee’s lopsided standards.

No votes were cast by Ald. Pat Dowell (3rd), Leslie Hairston (5th), George Cardenas (12th), Scott Waguespack (32nd), Brendan Reilly (42nd), John Arena (45th) and Harry Osterman (48th).

“If there is a medical indication and the life of the mother is threatened, then that would take place. But if it’s truly an elective abortion, we make sure that, through our partner organizations, that this occurs and that we do the best and most safe transfer of care between those facilities,” Chief Medical Officer Laura Concannon told aldermen.

As for birth control and family planning, Concannon said Presence Health does not “intervene in the relationship between the patient and the physician.”

“There are many medical indications for birth control … If it’s in the medical decision-making of that physician caring for that patient — if that is medically indicated — then that is the decision of the provider. We do not intervene in that relationship,” she said.

Cardenas, who has three daughters, said he simply “cannot vote for tax dollars for Presence” based on those criteria.

“One day, God forbid, something happens and one gets pregnant. I would take her to Presence where she will be denied care. She’ll be told, ‘You’re not welcome here, but we can find you an alternative place for your issue,'” Cardenas said.

“This is a personal issue to me. I want my daughters to have a place, to have a city, to have a country where decisions they make — there may be consequences — but they can never feel that they’re being rejected. They’re not wanted. They’re gonna be put someplace else. Leave that to the Middle Ages. This is 2018.”

Arena argued that “women in under-served communities have very few options these days” because of “consolidations and profitability being the motive of organizations” like Presence.

“I have a daughter. My wife looks for these services. My daughter may look for these services. That relationship has to be between her and her doctor,” Arena said.

“When an institution … says, ‘We want public dollars,’ and those public dollars are being given to an institution that says, ‘The separation between church and state really doesn’t apply here.’ Your religious doctrine being applied to how health care is provided is a concern to me.”

The long-stalled subsidy was used to convince Presence to bring its headquarters to 200 S. Wacker. In return, the company agreed to bring four community care centers to underserved Chicago neighborhoods.

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