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Illinois Rape Survivors Denied Emergency Contraception at Catholic Hospitals

June 2, 2003

CFFC study finds other reproductive services restricted

A comprehensive study of reproductive healthcare in Catholic institutions in Illinois by Catholics for a Free Choice released today shows that nearly half of Catholic hospital emergency rooms — 44 percent — do not provide emergency contraception (EC) to rape survivors. Other reproductive health services are also limited at healthcare institutions operated by the Catholic church.

Frances Kissling, President of Catholics for a Free Choice, said, “Illinois healthcare providers have an obligation to follow medical standards of care, not sectarian religious views, when they set policy. Catholic hospitals in Illinois should not be exempt from those standards when it comes to reproductive healthcare. Women who have been raped must get timely access to or information about EC in every emergency room in the state. Such access can prevent both pregnancy and abortion. Illinois hospitals should not let Catholic teachings influence the availability of other needed reproductive health services in the state.”

The newly released Catholic Health Care State Reports: Illinois also found:

  • Through the operation of hospitals, healthcare centers, specialized homes, and other social service agencies, the Catholic church plays a significant role in the provision of healthcare. In fact, the Catholic church is one of the largest healthcare providers in the state of Illinois, providing about one-third of all healthcare in the state.
  • Catholic hospitals in Illinois account for 22 percent of all hospitals in the state, and 28 percent of annual emergency room visits are seen at Catholic hospitals.
  • Catholic hospitals in Illinois rely heavily on government funding-federal and state sources, such as Medicare and Medicaid-for providing important public services. For example, an average of 67 percent of total inpatient days at Illinois Catholic hospitals are covered by either Medicare or Medicaid.
  • Catholic hospitals in Illinois do not typically provide many basic reproductive health services for women and men, Catholic and non-Catholic alike. Prohibited services include female and male sterilization, fertility treatments, contraception, and abortion, even when medically indicated.
  • Basic reproductive health services are also frequently restricted to students at Catholic universities in Illinois, enrollees in Illinois Catholic HMOs, and communities served by Catholic Charities organizations that provide health services.

In addition, this report reveals the significant lobbying activities of the Catholic Conference of Illinois, which executes a coordinated effort to influence state policy related to reproductive healthcare. Through the lobbying and advocacy initiatives of the Catholic Conference of Illinois, the Catholic church attempts to influence which services millions of Illinois women receive and which they do not.

Said Kissling, “For nearly a decade, Catholics for a Free Choice (CFFC) has been examining the role of the Catholic church in healthcare delivery and public health policy nationwide. The Catholic church plays a significant role in the provision of services through hospitals, HMO’s, health centers, and much more. Women in Illinois need to question what the role of the church might mean for their quality of care,” she said.