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National Survey Finds Women Oppose Religious Control of Reproductive Health Services

April 25, 2000

American women expect hospitals, pharmacies and health plans to put women’s rights to reproductive healthcare above the religious tenets of providers.

 Washington, DC— A new study finds that American women want and expect a wide range of health services to be available to them, regardless of the religious affiliation of the hospitals, pharmacies or insurance companies they rely on in their communities. Women strongly believe that Catholic religious tenets should not be allowed to influence the kinds of health services that are available. Likewise, women strongly oppose potential legislation allowing hospitals or pharmacists the right to refuse to perform or supply medical services because of religious beliefs.

Large majorities disapprove of hospitals not permitting doctors to provide certain procedures, but they are divided in their opinions regarding a doctor’s right to deny services based on the doctor’s own religious beliefs.

The findings are part of a new national survey of 1,000 women on religion, reproductive health and access to services released today by Catholics for a Free Choice (CFFC). The survey was conducted by Belden, Russonello & Stewart, a leading Washington, DC-based public interest polling firm. Among the key findings:

  • Over eight in ten (85%) women reject the idea that Catholic hospitals that take government money—and nearly all do—should be allowed to bar certain procedures because of religious beliefs.
  • Nearly four of every five (78%) women questioned said that hospitals in their communities should provide emergency contraception for women who have been raped.
  • The survey found broad opposition to any legislation giving hospitals or pharmacists the right to refuse to provide medical services or medication that conflicts with a religious belief (79% and 83%).
  • American women strongly believe (83%) that insurance policies that cover prescription drugs should be required to cover birth control bills.
  • In spite of high-profile Catholic church opposition to all abortions, a narrow majority of Catholic women (52%) prefer a hospital in their community that offers elective abortions to one that does not.
  • Nearly three out of four (74%) women would oppose a merger between a Catholic and non-Catholic hospital if it would mean women were denied reproductive health services.
  • Over eight in ten (84%) women believe that their health insurance policies should continue to cover reproductive health services no matter what the religious affiliation of the insurance company providing them.

“The trend among Catholic hospitals and HMOs is to restrict reproductive healthcare services and coverage,” CFFC President Frances Kissling noted, adding, “Where Catholic and non-Catholic hospitals have merged, the non-Catholic partner has often been required to eliminate reproductive health services that are against church teachings. A large majority of Catholic hospitals have claimed that they do not provide emergency contraception, even to women who have been raped. Lobbyists for the Catholic bishops and Catholic health association seek state and federal exemptions that would permit Catholic providers to deny women services that are legal and necessary for women’s good health.”

“All of these trends are rejected by American women,” Kissling said. “This survey amply demonstrates the extent to which Catholic healthcare policy is on a collision course with the values and opinions of American women, including Catholic women,” she added.

The survey of 1,000 women was conducted from Feb. 22 to March 5, 2000. The margin of sampling error for the entire survey is plus or minus 3.1 percentage points at the 95% level of confidence.

–statement ends–

A copy of the full survey and questionnaire can be obtained at
or by calling the media contact number.