Catholic Health Care Endangers Women’s
Reproductive Health—and Their Lives

Women who seek reproductive health care from the more than 600 Catholic hospitals in the United States are denied routine care as a matter of course. These hospitals ban everything from contraceptives and tubal ligations to artificial insemination and abortion, even in instances of rape or ectopic pregnancy.

Worse, doctors in Catholic hospitals won’t even treat women in the throes of miscarriages until it’s almost too late. This miscarriage mismanagement can be deadly. And for some women, carrying a pregnancy can be life threatening. 

All around the country, women’s health and lives are being put at risk because their medical needs and doctors’ treatment plans often conflict with the Church’s Ethical and Religious Directives for Catholic Health Care Services. The document - produced by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, not doctors - dictates the type of medical treatment allowed in Catholic hospitals.


Roughly 1 every 6 hospital beds nationwide are owned or affiliated with Catholic health care. In states like Illinois, it is one in three. And, as the number of Catholic hospitals grows, largely through mergers, religious-based health care gains stronger political and financial footholds in communities across the country. As a result, more and more women are being denied the crucial, often life-saving reproductive care they need. That’s unacceptable and cannot stand.

Protect yourself. Be vigilant and take proactive steps before you seek care in a Catholic hospital, such as finding out if the hospital in question abides by the Church’s Ethical and Religious Directives for Catholic Health Care Services.

The patients’ rights advocacy group MergerWatch offers proactive strategies to combat the loss of full-range reproductive care in merging Catholic hospitals.