New reports from the ACLU and MergerWatch reveal that one in six hospital beds in the U.S. is in a facility that complies with Catholic directives that prohibit a range of reproductive health care services, even when a woman’s life or health is in jeopardy. In some states, more than 40 percent of all hospital beds are in a Catholic-run facility, leaving entire regions without any option for certain reproductive health care services. The ACLU’s report shares firsthand accounts from patients who have been denied appropriate care at Catholic hospitals, from health care providers forbidden from providing critical care because of the Directives, and from physicians at secular hospitals who have treated very sick women after they were turned away from a Catholic facility.
The Ethical and Religious Directives for Catholic Health Care Services, which are promulgated by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, set forth standards for the provision of care at Catholic health care facilities. The Directives prohibit a range of reproductive health services, including contraception, sterilization, many infertility treatments, and abortion, even when a woman’s life or health is jeopardized by a pregnancy. Because of these rules, many Catholic hospitals across this country are withholding emergency care from patients who are in the midst of a miscarriage or experiencing other pregnancy complications. Catholic hospitals also routinely prohibit doctors from performing tubal ligations (commonly known as “getting your tubes tied”) at the time of delivery, when the procedure is safest, leaving patients to undergo an additional surgery elsewhere after recovering from childbirth. Catholic hospitals deny these essential health services despite receiving billions in taxpayer dollars. Transgender and gender-non-conforming patients suffer the same and other, similar harms when seeking reproductive health care.