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Women in New York don’t always get healthcare options they deserve, Catholics for a Free Choice study concludes

April 23, 2003

A comprehensive study of reproductive healthcare in Catholic health agencies in New York by Catholics for a Free Choice released today shows many Catholic hospital emergency rooms out of compliance with state health department protocols in the provision of emergency contraception. Today’s study highlighted information from a study by Ibis Reproductive Health that surveyed 597 Catholic emergency rooms nationwide, 39 of which were in New York. Of the 18 Catholic emergency rooms in New York — 45% — that said they did not dispense EC, only two hospitals even provided a useful referral that resulted in the provision of EC.

Frances Kissling, President of Catholics for a Free Choice, said, “In a state as diverse as New York, healthcare providers have an obligation to follow medical standards of care, not sectarian religious views, when they set policy. New York’s Catholic hospitals 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. Some Catholic hospitals provide such access. All Catholic hospitals need to provide it.”

The newly released Catholic Health Care State Reports: New York The New York Catholic Health Care report also found:

  • The Catholic church is the largest private provider of healthcare in New York, with 40 general hospitals serving about 8 million New Yorkers annually. About 15% of all hospitals statewide are owned or affiliated with the Catholic church.
  • Catholic hospitals in New York rely heavily on government funding-federal and state sources, such as Medicare and Medicaid-for providing important public services. For example, of the more than 2.1 million inpatient days reported by Catholic hospitals in FY 2000, approximately 62% of these were paid for by Medicare or Medicaid.
  • Catholic hospitals in New York 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 New York, enrollees in the Catholic Fidelis Care HMO, and communities served by Catholic Charities organizations that provide health services.

In addition to the shortcomings in delivery of needed services, the survey found numerous fiscal inconsistencies. For example, despite the fact that Catholic hospitals lost more than $128 million in revenue in FY 2000, these hospitals provided hefty compensation packages to their chief operating officers.

The report also reveals the significant lobbying activities and expenditures of the New York Catholic bishops’ conference, which devotes a significant portion of their agenda to issues related to reproductive healthcare. Through lobbying and advocacy initiatives of the New York State Catholic Conference and their allies, the Catholic church works to deny services to millions of New York women of all faiths.

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 New York need to question what the role of the church might mean for their quality of care,” she said.