During its upcoming conference, the Pontifical Council for Health Care will address the problem of abortion and other practices against Church teaching at some Catholic hospitals around the world.

The president of the Pontifical Council for Health Care, Archbishop Zygmunt Zimowski, said the Nov. 15-17 gathering in Rome will discuss "the serious challenge of preserving the identity of Catholic hospitals."

He criticized the "political pressure" levied against Catholic hospitals in some countries to force them to provide abortions in violation of Church teaching.

Jose Maria Simon Castellvi, a member of the Pontifical Council for Health Care, told CNA on Nov. 14 that the issue is especially troubling, given that from the Church's perspective, "human life is inviolable from conception to natural death."

"If the head obstetrician is not pro-life and family care is not offered, either abortions are performed there or patients are referred to other places to obtain them," he said.

"This is terrible, but it happens. I think mothers should always be given the best care, so that nobody manipulates them into abortion."

On abortions allegedly taking place at hospitals linked to the Catholic Church in Catalonia in Spain, Simon Castellvi said the Archbishop of Barcelona, Cardinal Lluis Martinez Sistach "tells me that there are no abortions at the San Pablo Hospital. So right now, I can't do anything more."

On Oct. 5, Catholic News Agency's South American affiliate ACI Prensa posted a video that showed that abortions are taking place at the hospital despite the repeated denials by Cardinal Martinez Sistach.  

The video featured a doctor recommending a pregnant woman be tested to see if her unborn child had Down's Syndrome, which she could use to justify obtaining an abortion.  

Asked if an abortion could be obtained at the hospital, the doctor told the woman that while "at this hospital we don't terminate pregnancies unless it is an extremely grave problem," she could obtain an abortion "if it was somewhere else besides here."

Fr. Custodio Ballester, the pastor of Immaculate Conception Parish in Barcelona and one of the first to denounce the Catholic hospitals in Catalonia that are providing or recommending abortions, said, "The Church's credibility is on the line" with the conference on Catholic hospitals.

"We'll see if they just stick to the principles, which are sufficiently clear, or if they apply them, especially here in Barcelona," he said.  

Fr. Ballester said the hospitals in question are under fire as well for "genetic experimentation, embryo selection for eugenics, abortion pills that some Church leaders think are safe."

"In Rome there is an excess of guidance and a lack of concrete decisions on what do" about this problem at Catholic hospitals, he added.

Nearly 600 experts from around the world are expected to attend the international conference.  According to data from the Holy See, there are some 120,000 Catholic health care institutions in the world.