Reflections on the Abington Victory
Friday, August 2, 2013 at 10:05AM
MW Editor

To mark the 1st anniversary of the Abington Memorial Hospital victory, we invited Rita Rosen Poley to reflect on the popular Stop the Abington Hospital Merger Facebook page she started in opposition to the proposed joint venture with Holy Redeemer Hospital.

It took our community just 2 weeks to stop a partnership between Abington Memorial Hospital (AMH), our community hospital, and Holy Redeemer, a Catholic hospital. The merger, if it had been successful, would have ended abortion services at AMH.

During the course of that 2-week period Marie McCullough of the Philadelphia Inquirer interviewed me a few times. In her second interview she asked me, “What qualifies you to be the spokesperson for this struggle?” My immediate, unhesitating response was, “Absolutely nothing!”

So it was. With absolutely no qualifications and with no idea of what I was getting myself into, I started the Stop the Abington Hospital Merger Facebook page. I had no idea how starting a FB page might end the merger but when my daughter suggested it, it sure sounded like the best idea around. I certainly knew of no other ideas. I had some trepidation about stepping into the merger struggle as I did because I had very little experience with Facebook and very little experience with community organizing. I had to learn fast….the on the job training was a little brutal.


A committee of local citizens, a committee of local clergy; a petition signed by 6,000 people; 2,000 STOP THE MERGER pins distributed for free to the community; a logo; a Twitter account; a deluge of letters to the AMH Board; to AMH doctors; to local and national press; meetings in protest and planning meetings; contact with local politicians to pressure them to support the struggle; outreach to national media; the invaluable support of MergerWatch and Catholics for Choice. All and more found their way onto the FB page.


1. I believe that one of our most successful moves was to make it clear that we would hit the hospital in the pocketbook. Patents wrote letters to AMH doctors they loved, trusted and depended upon, to say that they were leaving their practices. This was not confined to OBGYN. Orthopedic patients, cardiac patients, ophthalmologic patients etc. all took part. Through the FB page we began to organize meetings for patients to learn how to request the transfer of their medical records. Committee members contacted other community hospitals to start meetings with groups of potential new patients.

2. We did not allow abusive verbal attacks of any sort on the page. Whether you were for or against the merger, if you were malicious and nasty we would take down your post. By so doing we maintained the page as a safe place. I truly believe that was a very important factor in our success.

3. Through the use of GoogleAlerts I received daily updates about media coverage of the merger story from all over the country.  By posting them on the page I was able to demonstrate that we were being heard far and wide and that the reputation of Abington Hospital was taking a broad beating.

4. Without the help of press, radio, TV and on-line media in publicizing our story I am not sure that even a FB page would have stopped the merger. 


Mergers between community and Catholic hospitals are increasing. According to the ACLU of Washington, if all the proposed secular/Catholic mergers in Washington State go through, 10 out of the state’s 39 counties will have 100% of its hospital beds in Catholic hands.

Our success was wonderful but it was not enough. Legislatures are of little help. In 2012 thirty states passed 135 laws limiting women’s reproductive freedoms. We must remain vigilant and we must continue the struggle.

Rita Rosen Poley

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