A Colorado state agency has yet to complete its investigation into a complaint, filed in November by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Colorado, that a rural Catholic hospital is illegally telling doctors not to discuss abortion with their patients.
The doctor at the center of the controversy, cardiologist Michael Demos, is cited in an ACLU letter of complaint alleging that a Mercy Hospital administrator told Demos that he should not recommend abortion—or even discuss it—with his patients, even if the standard treatment for an illness is abortion.
Demos says that since the complaint was filed, “everyone has been very, very supportive, from physicians to patients.”
“One person, who I didn’t even know, came up to me and gave a big hug and said, ‘Thank you from the women of La Plata County,’” he told RH Reality Check. “It’s been gratifying. Very heartwarming.”
Anti-choice activists in Colorado are not supportive of Demos, however. They back Mercy Hospital’s alleged policy of prohibiting the discussion and recommendation of abortion.
“It’s not surprising that the Anti-Christ Legions of the Underworld would use the police-state force of government to compel an institution to aid and abet the dismemberment of unborn children,” Bob Enyart, a spokesperson for Colorado Right to Life, told RH Reality Check.
Long-time Colorado anti-choice activist Leslie Hanks added in an email, “The ACLU has moved from being pro-choice to being no-choice.”
In two letters to one of Demos’ patients last year, Dr. John Boyd, Mercy’s chief medical officer, wrote that the hospital would “provide education to all our employed providers, reminding them that they should not recommend abortion—even to patients who may have serious illnesses,” and that the hospital follows Catholic Ethical and Religious Directives, and therefore precludes doctors from “providing or recommending abortion,” according to the ACLU letter of complaint.
In a meeting with Demos, also last year, “Boyd issued a verbal admonishment to Dr. Demos, instructing Dr. Demos that he is not permitted to recommend an abortion, nor is he permitted to even discuss the possibility of terminating a pregnancy with a Mercy Regional patient, regardless of the circumstances,” according to the ACLU complaint.
Demos, who’s been at Mercy since 2005, says he’s heard nothing from the hospital administration, which issued a statement in November saying the ACLU complaint was inaccurate.
Asked if he felt the medical community is on his side, Demos said, “This shouldn’t be an adversarial thing. It’s very amicable. Everyone is acting in a very adult and mature manner. We wanted to do the best for our patients. That’s our reason to be here. It might be trite to say, but it’s the truth. Everybody wants to do the right thing.”
A spokesperson for the ACLU of Colorado said Wednesday that the Colorado Department of Health and Environment is still investigating the ACLU complaint. The ACLU had originally requested that the investigation be completed by November 27.