Joanne Conroy and Joseph Pepe

Joanne Conroy, CEO and president of Dartmouth-Hitchcock Health, speaks with Joseph Pepe, CEO and president of Catholic Medical Center, at the groundbreaking for Dartmouth-Hitchcock’s clinic expansion in Manchester in May. The parent organizations of the two healthcare providers plan to combine.

MANCHESTER — The pro-life group New Hampshire Right to Life opposes combining the parent organizations of Catholic Medical Center and Dartmouth-Hitchcock because the latter performs abortions and trains doctors on how to perform them.

“They may not be doing abortions at CMC, but the funds, the revenue, generated by CMC can go to funds that Catholics disagree with (including abortion),” the group’s president, Jason Hennessey, said in an interview Tuesday.

“The budget flows into the joint entity; the joint entity has control over the money,” Hennessey said.

CMC spokesman Lauren Collins-Cline said that “each hospital keeps its operating and capital budget, which is ultimately approved by the system board.”

Donations made to CMC can be given with restrictions and desired uses, she said.

Dartmouth-Hitchcock Health and GraniteOne Health, the latter of which includes CMC, are conducting listening sessions around the state to hear about combining the two health systems.

The next session is Wednesday at Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center in Lebanon from 6 to 7 p.m. in the auditorium.

Elliot Hospital and CMC merged in 1994 to become Optima Health, only to dissolve the merger in early 1999 over several issues, including conflicts between Catholic and secular medicine.

A different attempt to unite CMC and Dartmouth-Hitchcock failed, at least partly over Catholic issues.

CMC CEO and president Joseph Pepe said Tuesday that hospital leaders have learned from the past.

“CMC will always be CMC and we will be stronger,” he said in an interview. “We will not be diluted, and the way the structure is set forth, the bishop will have 100 percent say over our Catholicity” in ethical and religious directives.

Those directives don’t condone abortions, direct sterilization or in vitro fertilization, and they provide guidance “around end-of-life issues, advanced directives and guidance on supporting patients and families in times of difficult decisions,” Collins-Cline said.

Pepe said he has talked with priests in the Hillsborough County area in recent months, as well as with pro-life activists.

New Hampshire Right to Life in a statement said Dartmouth-Hitchcock performs abortions and trains doctors on how to perform them.

Joanne Conroy, CEO and president of Dartmouth-Hitchcock Health, said the organization performs abortions and that learning to perform abortions is part of its “ob-gyn kind of curriculum.”

“There are some pregnancies that cannot be continued, and we manage those patients in the best way possible but never within the Catholic Medical Center umbrella,” Conroy said in an interview.

Bishop Peter Libasci, Bishop of Manchester, said in a statement back in January that he believed “that this combined system would strengthen Catholic Medical Center’s ability to care for the suffering and sick in our community while at the same time maintaining the integrity of its Catholic identity.”

Hennessey said he is also concerned that the combination of the two health care systems could result in higher costs for consumers.

“That’s going to give them a lot more leverage with health insurance companies to be able to drive up costs,” he said.

Collins-Cline said the deal would lead to more people participating in tele-medicining in rural areas than going to medical centers.

The combined system would look to attract a percent of the 10,000 residents who go to Boston every year for medical services.

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