Do women know their hospital is Catholic?

Catholic hospitals
The number of Catholic hospitals in the US has increased by 22% since 2001. One in 6 hospital beds is in a Catholic hospital. These hospitals are bound by ethical and religious directives from the Catholic leadership that severely limit reproductive health care. The directives prohibit common procedures like sterilization, abortion and contraception. This means that women who seek care at a Catholic hospital could be forced to wait until they have an infection to get medical or surgical management for a miscarriage, or be denied the option to have a tubal ligation after giving birth.

New research from ANSIRH and the University of Chicago Medicine shows that more than one-third of women were not aware that the hospital where they would seek reproductive health care has a religious affiliation. Half of the women who misidentified their hospital as secular felt sure or very sure about their incorrect response.

Women were three times as likely to correctly identify hospitals that had a religious-sounding name. Low-income women were less likely to correctly identify their hospital as Catholic than women making more than $100,000 per year.

Previous ANSIRH research showed that 81% of women want to know about limits on reproductive health care up front, but only a third wanted to know about the religious affiliation of a hospital ahead of time. Previous research shows that this discrepancy is due to many people not knowing that religious hospitals operate under restrictive directives until they are already patients and are denied care.

This research has important implications for a woman’s ability to make an informed decision while seeking reproductive health care. While more education needs to be done to make sure women understand these restrictions, knowing about religious affiliation is an important first step. Efforts must be made to increase hospital transparency about which services they provide and to make sure patients are aware of the implications that arise when care is restricted.