More than 200 physicians affiliated with Abington Memorial Hospital met there this morning and expressed opposition to the hospital's intended partnership with Holy Redeemer Hospital, according to doctors at the meeting.

Under the proposed merger, announced last week, Abington would stop performing abortions in deference to Redeemer's Catholic moral teaching — even though hospital officials say the entity that would open in 2013 would be a secular, regional health system.

Abington chief executive Laurence Merlis has been deluged with outraged letters, emails, and social media messages from clergy, women's groups, professional organizations, and residents.

Now, doctors — who were not consulted before the announcement that Abington has signed a letter of intent — have added their ire.

"It was clear that the outrage and betrayal was felt unanimously throughout the hospital," wrote the 20 residents in Abington's OB-GYN program, in a letter they released after the meeting. "There is strong opposition to having our medical practice dictated by Catholic doctrine rather than our patients' best interests and standard of care."

Lisa Jambusaria of Los Angeles, who is in the final year of her 4-year ob-gyn residency training at Abington, said she would never have applied there if she had known abortions would be banned. Although the hospital performs fewer than 100 abortions per year, many involve women carrying defective fetuses that would not survive beyond birth, or women whose own health is endangered by the pregnancy.

"We are one of the rare hospitals that provides these (abortion) services," Jambusaria said. "We get these referrals all the time."

Neither Abington nor Redeemer officials responded to a request for comment.

Abington employs 193 physicians, and another 881 physicians have privileges.

In an article about why some proposed hospital mergers fall apart, Modern Healthcare Magazine listed physician opposition as the second biggest factor, right after unfavorable financial conditions.

"Physicians have a lot at stake in a merger; their medical privileges, income, and professional autonomy are all at risk," said Lois Uttley, head of MergerWatch, a New York City-based advocacy group that says it has helped to stop, undo or modify 59 mergers over 15 years. "It's a bad move for hospital administrators to propose a sweeping change without consulting doctors."

Contact Marie McCullough at 215-854-2720, mmccullough@phillynews.com or @repopter on Twitter.

EndFragment