For the second year, anti-abortion protesters gathered at Mercy Regional Medical Center to oppose its relationship with local obstetrician-gynecologist Richard Grossman.
Protesters on Thursday held signs that read: “Shame on Mercy,” and “How is abortion good medicine,” and “Richard Grossman is an abortionist.”
About 70 adults and a dozen children attended the protest. They stood on public property in front of Mercy in the Three Springs subdivision. Some participants stepped on property owned by Three Springs, and an unidentified woman asked them to move, which they did. A police officer stood at a distance, but there were no problems.
The demonstration was expected to last 1½ hours, but participants began leaving after 15 minutes when large raindrops fell.
Mercy spokesman David Bruzzese said Grossman is not employed by Mercy, does not receive monetary compensation from Mercy and works for a private practice in a medical office that is not owned by Mercy. He is a member of the medical staff, meaning he has privileges to work at the hospital, Bruzzese said, but no abortions are offered or performed at Mercy.
Daniel Anguis, director of LifeGuard of Durango, a Christian nonprofit group that organized the protest, said Mercy is playing semantics.
“For the hospital to claim that they're a Catholic hospital – they just can't do that by opening their doors to an abortionist,” Anguis said. “They're definitely not acting Catholic by allowing an abortionist to be there.”
He added: “I don't think this would be a conversation or a debate at all if he was a child molester.”
Anguis' group is best known for protesting outside Planned Parenthood every Friday, when LifeGuard says abortions occur at the Durango clinic. The group also organized a protest at Mercy about this time last year.
LifeGuard estimates Grossman performs about 400 abortions a year.
“This is a man who murders in the name of population control,” Anguis said.
Grossman, who writes a monthly column for the Herald called “Population Matters!,” said he respects the group's right to demonstrate.
“I honor their beliefs,” he said, “I don't agree with them.”
Grossman said half the pregnancies in the United States are unplanned. The best way to prevent abortion is to decrease the number of unplanned pregnancies, and the best way to prevent unplanned pregnancies is with contraception, he said.
“The patient care at Mercy is remarkable, not only for the quality but also for the caring,” Grossman said. “Even though I disagree with the lack of reproductive health available at Mercy, I think the religious background of the institution is one of the reasons it is such a caring institution.”
Mercy was founded in 1882 as a Catholic hospital and is owned by Catholic Health Initiatives.
The Diocese of Pueblo, the Catholic district whose jurisdiction encompasses Durango, issued a news release Thursday expressing support for protesters' stance.
“It is most unfortunate that a doctor who performs abortions elsewhere also exercises medical privileges in this Catholic hospital,” the release says.
But the diocese said it had been assured by Mercy that the hospital is not out of compliance with the “Ethical and Religious Directives” for Catholic health-care facilities.