243161 Violations of women's human rights when a community is reliant on a Catholic hospital for care

Tuesday, November 1, 2011: 4:50 PM

Julianna Gonen, JD, PhD , Government Relations, Center for Reproductive Rights, Washington, DC
Religiously-motivated health care professionals have invoked their conscience right to refuse care where it conflicts with their beliefs, notably in the area of reproductive health. Institutional providers affiliated with religious entities have claimed this same mantle of conscience to prohibit a range of reproductive health care services in hospitals, clinics and affiliated practices. These actions threaten women's human rights, including access to reproductive health care, freedom from discrimination, and the rights to life, self-determination and information. They also infringe on clinicians' right to practice their profession, and, in so doing, defend women's reproductive rights.

A human rights fact-finding investigation was undertaken to document violations of women's rights where a community is reliant on a Catholic hospital for care. Interviews were conducted with physicians and nurses, patients, public health experts and hospital administrators in three communities in Arizona, Illinois and Michigan. Diminished or denied access was reported across a range of services: contraception, including emergency contraception and sterilization; pregnancy care, including ectopic pregnancies and miscarriage management; and access to abortion, particularly in cases of severe fetal anomalies. In addition, clinicians reported being unable to carry out their professional and ethical responsibilities to provide the medical standard of care to patients, or being forced to defy hospital policies, at the risk of their employment or hospital privileges, in order to provide essential reproductive health services to women.

Learning Areas:
Advocacy for health and health education
Other professions or practice related to public health
Provision of health care to the public
Public health or related public policy
Public health or related research

Learning Objectives:
By the end of the session, the participants will be able to: 1. Describe the changes to available reproductive health care services when a community hospital joins a Catholic health care system and becomes subject to its restrictive policies. 2. Identify the impacts of those changes on women’s access to reproductive health care and health care professionals’ ability to care for patients. 3. Analyze the human rights implications of these impacts.

Keywords: Reproductive Health Research, Access to Health Care

Presenting author's disclosure statement:

Qualified on the content I am responsible for because: I am a reproductive rights attorney involved in investigating legal and other barriers to women's right to access reproductive health care services.
Any relevant financial relationships? No

I agree to comply with the American Public Health Association Conflict of Interest and Commercial Support Guidelines, and to disclose to the participants any off-label or experimental uses of a commercial product or service discussed in my presentation.