ALAMOGORDO, NM - The Gerald Champion Regional Medical Center (GCRMC) in Alamogordo recently announced its plans to join CHRISTUS Health, a Catholic healthcare system that restricts reproductive healthcare, LGBTQ+ inclusive healthcare, and end-of life care, as early as July 1, 2023. In a letter sent today, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of New Mexico and Bold Futures urged the hospital to safeguard these comprehensive health care options and engage with community leaders regarding this potential transaction. 

GCRMC is one of the few healthcare providers in Otero County and the only Level III Trauma hospital serving South Central New Mexico. It also has a unique Department of Defense Shared Facility Agreement for service members and their families from Holloman Airforce Base. 

“We firmly believe in the fundamental right to religious exercise and expression, and we have a long history of defending that right,” said ACLU of New Mexico Reproductive Rights and Gender Equity Managing Attorney Ellie Rushforth. “However, religious freedom does not give a health care system the right to limit information and access to basic health care by imposing a narrow set of directives on everyone. The hospital should seek feedback from their community and take more time to consider the potential risks posed by this transaction to their patients and health care providers.” 

Catholic health-care facilities clinicians, and staff working in those facilities, are required to adhere to directives from the all-male United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, which can limit treatment options deemed "immoral" or “evil” by the Catholic Church. This includes sterilization procedures like vasectomies or tubal ligation, contraception, and abortion, including in emergency situations, potentially impacting obstetric care during miscarriages and ectopic pregnancies.  

The application of religious doctrine has already resulted in delayed and denied healthcare, compromised clinician autonomy, and harm to patients and their families in other religiously affiliated health systems. 

The ACLU of New Mexico and Bold Futures NM have heard from multiple concerned community members about GCRMC’s overall lack of transparency and failure to make this decision public sooner. Residents of Otero County have also expressed deep fear for the future of healthcare services in Otero County.  

When you go to the hospital, evidence-based medical standards and trained providers, not religious directives, should govern the care you receive,” said Rushforth. “While it remains uncertain how associated clinical sites will be integrated into the CHRISTUS Health system, GCRMC has a responsibility to engage in open and meaningful dialogue with the community it serves. The ultimate decisionmaker regarding health care should be trained medical experts, not a local Catholic bishop.” 

A copy of the letter to GCRMC can be found below.