The bishop says no

Same old – Catholic health systems buy up everything in sight and then refuse to prescribe birth control. Uh oh, you’re now screwed! Too bad. Have a nice life!

An OB/GYN who can’t prescribe birth control? It’s not some bad joke. It could be a reality if your doctor’s practice is purchased by a Catholic health system that then imposes the Ethical & Religious Directives for Catholic Health Care Services, a set of rules created by the U.S. Bishop’s Conference that prohibits doctors from doing everything from prescribing the Pill to performing sterilizations or abortions.

…Driven by health-care economics and incentives in the Affordable Care Act, health systems, which are a collection of hospitals and ancillary services, are acquiring physician practices at an unprecedented rate. The percentage of doctors who were employees of health systems increased from 20 percent to 26 percent between 2012 and 2013 alone; more than 40 percent of primary care doctors like OB/GYNs are now employed by health systems directly, and experts don’t see the trend slowing.

And with Catholic hospital systems accounting for eight of the 10 of the largest nonprofit health systems in the U.S., these hospitals are poised to become major owners of doctors’ offices, which could severely impede access to contraceptives if doctors are forced to follow the Directives. “The more we see these Catholic systems buying up these practices, the more we are going to see what Angela saw,” predicted Lorie Chaiten, director of the Illinois ACLU’s Reproductive Rights Project, who notes that such refusals are legal under Illinois’ Health Care Right of Conscience Act.

It’s their religious freedom. Yours, not so much.

Asked directly whether its doctors in Evanston and elsewhere in Illinois were prevented from providing contraception, Presence said in a statement, “We abide by the Ethical & Religious Directives, and there are certain services which we do not provide. It is our expectation that all physicians associated with Presence Saint Francis Hospital share with their patients the options that are available in accessing the care they seek.”

But telling women about their options isn’t a solution when they are denied access to contraception, says Chaiten. “Even if they tell you what your options are, you have to have a second appointment with another doctor to get birth control. This seems inconsistent with whole idea of OB/GYN practice.”

Not only do women have to face the inconvenience of making—and paying—for another doctor’s appointment to get one of the most basic gynecological services, but there’s also a bigger problem: “The more we stigmatize and silo reproductive health care, the more it seems like it’s OK to treat it as not basic health care,” says Chaiten.

And that’s exactly what they want. These bastards want total Catholic control of women’s reproductive care and of their minds. The Pope’s Revenge.

for some women, changing doctors may not be an option. Health insurers are becoming increasingly restrictive about which hospitals and doctors a patient is allowed to use and may charge a steep penalty for going out of the network of preferred providers. Smaller towns and rural areas may not have a large selection of OB/GYNs. The ACLU is backing a measure in the Illinois Legislature that would require health systems to tell patients beforehand what services they don’t provide and where they can get them. Chaiten also encourages women who have been denied reproductive health services for religious reason to report it to the ACLU, which is tracking this trend.

Ironically, Angela’s experience with her OB/GYN wasn’t her last run-in with Catholic health care. After she was refused a tubal ligation and a prescription for birth control, Angela’s husband decided to get a vasectomy. His doctor, who was also part of the Catholic system, said his practice couldn’t do the procedure or make a referral. “The whole situation is so unbelievable to me. I had no idea these limitations occurred,” she says. “When I tell my friends about it, they say it’s medieval. We have to worry that if they keep buying up all these practices, it will get harder and harder to find someone who can prescribe birth control.”

On the other hand, in the news today

Insurance companies must accept all forms of federally approved methods of birth control for women free of charge or co-payments, the Obama administration announced Monday in a series of guidelines on the implementation of the Affordable Care Act.

Responding to reports that insurance companies were skirting requirements to cover all contraceptive methods approved by the Food and Drug Administration, the Obama administration sought to erase any ambiguity over what forms of birth control fall under the free-coverage mandate.

“As the law has been implemented, issues have been raised by some women and from members of Congress that insurance companies were not covering the contraceptive method recommended by doctors, as well as concerns from issuers that the existing guidance did not provide enough detail about how specific types of contraception should be covered,” the Department of Health and Human Services said in a statement.

That’s about insurance coverage, not the provision of the actual birth control – but maybe it’s a first step.

This shit has got to stop. Catholic bishops should not be controlling what medical services women can get.


  1. says

    Perhaps all the Catholic owned hospitals should be confiscated to pay compensation to those abused by priests?
    Or maybe we should take a cue from the French of the 1790s for the best thing to do with bishops.

  2. iknklast says

    In the somewhat rural area where I live, there are 3 hospitals, about an hour drive from each other. Two of them are Catholic owned. The one in our town is the onlly one not, and my husband refuses to go there for any reason after they left me lying in my own vomit for an hour during a post-surgery stay. I can’t say that I blame him, but….

    I’ve told him if it ever comes to end of life care, I’m having him medi-vacced to the state capitol. He’s fine with that. The Catholic hospital his doctor practices out would never honor his advance directive.

  3. PatrickG says

    @ iknklast:

    I still regret not urging my mother to sue after my grandmother’s DNR was ignored by the neighboring Catholic hospital. You know, the giant yellow sheet tacked to her bedroom door, the advance notice filed with the hospital itself, and so forth. It was her decision, and those motherfuckers absolutely refused to honor it.

    Their failure to acknowledge her decision caused her and our family a lot of pain and suffering. Not to mention enormous costs for end-of-life care that my grandmother explicitly did not want her family to be responsible for.

  4. grumpyoldfart says

    This shit has got to stop.

    With a government full of fundamentalist control freaks? You haven’t got a hope!

  5. Omar Puhleez says

    …And that’s exactly what they want. These bastards want total Catholic control of women’s reproductive care and of their minds. The Pope’s Revenge.

    But what about the pedophile priests, monks and other clerics? They have their sex lives too, you know.

  6. M can help you with that. says

    Transporting anyone to a Catholic hospital who is pregnant — or is a woman, or isn’t devout enough or straight enough or puritanical enough for the Church, or… — is just a hair shy of attempted murder. You’re delivering a person into the hands of a group that claims an absolute legal right to kill people by denying care if that care or that person is objectionable to them on religious (i.e. arbitrary) grounds. Hell, they claim a right to refuse to even inform people that they’re denying care, or their reasons for doing so, if they think that information might lead to people seeking help elsewhere.

  7. A Masked Avenger says

    You mean the ACA, which was largely written by health care systems, is driving providers to sell out to health care systems (or go out of business)? You don’t fucking say.

    And the biggest problem with that isn’t that the ACA is creating monopolies, but that we don’t like which monopolist is coming out ahead? Might we be missing the forest for the trees here?

  8. iknklast says

    Patrick G – and of course it will probably surprise no one to find out that when my mother (a Protestant) wanted a tubal ligation, her doctor (a Catholic) refused to give her one. This is in spite of the fact that he worked for the US Government in a naval hospital where that was an allowed procedure. When she presented three years later, pregnant again, he chewed her out for getting pregnant again. (Yes, the same doctor who denied her a truly effective form of birth control). She had an extremely high risk pregnancy, and could have died, leaving five small children alone with a father who had no clue how to raise them (because in the era where I grew up, that was woman’s work totally, and few fathers had any idea of how that sort of stuff happened – most of it happened while they were somewhere else). This was my first experience with Catholics. It was not a good one.

  9. HFM says

    @6: Shortly after I got my IUD put in, I spiked a 104-degree fever. Then, because America, I had the fun task of teaching my boyfriend the difference between uterine sepsis and the flu (was the latter)…and if I do need a hospital, here are the local ones that will save my life, and the others not so much. (In that moment, I made it pretty clear that if I woke up in a Catholic hospital, I was taking him down with me. Never threatened a partner before, or since, and am in no way proud of it…but it was also the truth.)

    But of course, the feminazis won and I have nothing to be angry about.

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