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Mayo to reopen Onalaska clinic for sterilizations

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Mayo Clinic Health System will reopen an Onalaska clinic on Friday as a “special procedures” facility to offer sterilizations.

The vasectomies for men and Essure contraceptive implants for women “will be under the umbrella of the Mayo Clinic Health System rather than Franciscan Healthcare,” said Rick Thiesse, spokesman for La Crosse-based Mayo Clinic Health System-Franciscan Healthcare.

The arrangement is intended to allow Mayo-Franciscan, which Mayo and Franciscan Healthcare co-sponsor, to retain its Catholic identity, Thiesse said.

He noted the “sensitive matter of these special outpatient-based sterilization procedures.”

Catholic hospitals are required to follow the U.S. bishops’ Ethical and Religious Directives for Catholic Healthcare Services, a 43-page document that sets care guidelines but bans abortion and sterilization.

Abortions will not be done at the clinic, Thiesse said.

Sterilization has been done at Mayo-Franciscan in the past, but officials opted for the separate facility to bring the hospital into compliance with the Catholic regulations while still fulfilling patient requests, he said.

“We want to continue to offer what our patients want,” he said. “Patients came to us.”

The three most pertinent Catholic directives, among 72 listed in the bishops’ document, state:

  • “Catholic health institutions may not promote or condone contraceptive practices but should provide, for married couples and the medical staff who counsel them, instruction both about the Church’s teaching on responsible parenthood and in methods of natural family planning.”
  • “Direct sterilization of either men or women, whether permanent or temporary, is not permitted in a Catholic health care institution. Procedures that induce sterility are permitted when their direct effect is the cure or alleviation of a present and serious pathology and a simpler treatment is not available.”
  • “Catholic health care organizations are not permitted to engage in immediate material cooperation in actions that are intrinsically immoral, such as abortion, euthanasia, assisted suicide and direct sterilization."

Mayo told leaders of the Franciscan Sisters of Perpetual Adoration and La Crosse Bishop William Callahan about the move, Thiesse said.

“We have been in direct contact with the sisters and the bishop,” he said. “They are very aware of our plans.”

The sisters are aware that Mayo will open the “special procedures clinic,” said Sister Eileen Long, FSPA vice president.

“The Well Street facility is owned and operated by Mayo Clinic Health System and is not a Franciscan Healthcare property, nor is it part of the Franciscan Healthcare system,” Long said.

The La Crosse Diocese confirmed that the plan had been a collaborative decision.

The clinic at 1212 Well St. will be open only Fridays to patients whose doctors refer them, Thiesse said.

“It won’t be for walk-ins,” he said.

Mayo-Franciscan closed the Well Street facility when it opened its Onalaska clinic in 2006.


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