The spread of Catholic hospital systems is limiting access to reproductive health care across the United States, even in states where abortion remains legal, The Washington Post reports.
Catholic hospital systems, which require religious doctrine to guide treatment, now control about one in every seven hospital beds in the country.
These systems have expanded amid a larger push for large hospital systems to consolidate smaller hospitals.
Four of the country’s 10 largest hospital systems are now Catholic.
The 10 largest Catholic health systems alone control 394 short-term, acute-care hospitals, a 50% increase over the last 20 years.
In some states like Alaska, Iowa, Washington, and Wisconsin, 40% of hospital beds are controlled by Catholic facilities.
Reproductive care access:
Catholic hospitals follow guidelines laid out by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, which ban procedures like vasectomies, postpartum tubal ligations, contraception and abortion.
The policies can also limit treatment options for obstetric care during miscarriages and ectopic pregnancies.
“The directives are not just a collection of dos and don’ts,” John Brehany, executive vice president of the National Catholic Bioethics, told the Post. “They are a distillation of the moral teachings of the Catholic Church as they apply to modern health care.”
Catholic hospitals are continuing to expand in states like New York, Iowa, and Connecticut, raising worries about restrictions on reproductive services.
“Many patients are unaware of the restrictions because hospital administrators typically don’t outline the services they do not offer,” Sister Simone Campbell, a lawyer and former head of the NETWORK Lobby for Catholic Social Justice, told The Post.
“Many hospitals have dealt with this by being pretty quiet. Dobbs has made it more of a question,” she said.