May 8, 2012 — Thirty-seven percent of ob-gyns at religiously affiliated hospitals have faced a conflict with their employer about religiously based policies on patient care, according to a study published in the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology, Reuters reports. At Catholic hospitals, 52% of ob-gyns have experienced such conflicts, the study found.
Debra Stulberg and colleagues at the University of Chicago surveyed more than 1,100 ob-gyns and found that about 20% of respondents practiced at religiously affiliated hospitals. The study found that few ob-gyns -- at both religious and non-religious hospitals -- felt restricted in their options for treating ectopic pregnancies, which is a matter of debate among Catholic ethicists. Although the study did not examine the nature of the disagreements between ob-gyns and hospitals, Stulberg said conflicts typically arise over sterilization procedures for men, contraceptive use and treatment of miscarriages.
The researchers said the findings show that religious institutions should clarify policies to prevent confusion among physicians about what is permitted and to ensure that patients are aware of how their care might be restricted.
Stulberg said, "Recently the Catholic bishops have been talking about this as if it's a primarily religious freedom issue." She continued, "Sometimes what gets lost is it's also an access-to-care issue for women and also that women have the right to have the care they receive match their own values," adding, "And if they're getting their treatment in a hospital that has strict policies, the hospital's values may trump theirs" (Pittman, Reuters, 5/4).
Debra Ness, publisher & president, National Partnership
Andrea Friedman, associate editor & director of reproductive health programs, National Partnership
Melissa Safford, associate editor & policy advocate for reproductive health, National Partnership
Perry Sacks, assistant editor & health program associate, National Partnership
Cindy Romero, assistant editor & communications assistant, National Partnership
Justyn Ware, editor
Amanda Wolfe, editor-in-chief
Heather Drost, Hanna Jaquith, Marcelle Maginnis, Ashley Marchand and Michelle Stuckey, staff writers
Tucker Ball, director of new media, National Partnership