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Is Your Health Care Compromised When You Walk through the Doors of a Catholic Medical Facility? New Report Looks at the Big Business of Catholic Healthcare

January 10, 2017

More than one in six hospital beds is Catholic-owned or –affiliated, and millions of people rely on Catholic healthcare each day in the U.S. Whether they are seeking routine or life-saving medical care, are their options more limited than would be offered at a secular facility? The newly released report, Is Your Health Care Compromised? from Catholics for Choice, answers that question.

No matter their faith, patients’ medical care will be governed by the Ethical and Religious Directives (ERDs) which prohibit services including contraception, abortion, end-of-life plans, and sterilization. The report looks at the evolution of Catholic healthcare from a charitable effort to the big business it is today. It also reveals that these healthcare institutions do not reflect the views of the majority of American Catholics and are an affront to religious liberty for all people seeking services there.

The original goals of Catholic hospitals were to provide care for the poor and for immigrants who were ignored or treated poorly in public hospitals. But as the Catholic church changed, so did Catholic healthcare. The number of religious sisters in the US has dwindled 72 percent from 1965 to 2014 and, with it, the number of nuns who serve as the chief executives of Catholic hospitals. The medical industry has changed as well, forcing hospitals to merge. Today, eight of the top health systems in the US are Catholic-sponsored, and they are among 25 of the largest hospitals in the country. Catholic-run and –affiliated institutions received $27 billion in net revenue from Medicaid and Medicare in 2011, giving Catholic healthcare entities an oversized and harmful influence over health policy in a number of areas.

The report looks at recent mergers across the country which have resulted in hospitals and medical facilities that are governed by the Catholic directives, even though patients may be unaware. It also details cases in which the lives and health of patients have been adversely affected by limited treatment options. The 2009 edition of the Ethical and Religious Directives contains 72 directives that, according to the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, provide “authoritative guidance on certain moral issues that face Catholic health care today.” In practice, the ERDs mean:

  • No access to abortion, even in cases of rape or incest.
  • No ability to choose modern contraception, including sterilization
  • Restrictions upon treatment for ectopic pregnancy
  • No access to in vitro fertilization
  • None of the benefits of embryonic stem cell research
  • No deference to advanced medical directives
  • No access to emergency contraception, except in cases of sexual assault after it can be proven that pregnancy has not occurred