Due to the Catholic Church's widespread influence in the United States, medical facilities like hospitals and clinics may not be able to provide all forms of contraception due to religious restrictions.
Students returning to Oberlin College in Ohio this week were shocked to learn that the campus' student health services would severely restrict who may get prescriptions for contraception. Only those who have experienced sexual assault would be eligible to receive emergency contraception, and they would only be prescribed to treat medical conditions rather than to prevent conception.
It was discovered that the college had made a deal with a Catholic healthcare group to deliver its student health services. It adheres to religious prohibitions on utilizing contraception to prevent conception, like other Catholic health organizations.
Despite the fact that the college quickly came up with a new plan to offer reproductive health services to students on campus, the incident at Oberlin College highlights the breadth of Catholic health care in the United States and how the regulations these institutions follow can restrict access to contraception. The enactment of restrictions or complete bans on abortion by numerous states, including Ohio, has raised the stakes for access to contraception as well.
According to Dr. Debra Stulberg, a professor of family medicine at the University of Chicago who has studied how these directives are implemented in healthcare, the Ethical and Religious Directives that govern Catholic health care systems "prohibit a broad swath of reproductive care," including birth control pills, IUDs, tubal ligation, and vasectomies. These directives were issued by the U.S. Council of Catholic Bishops.
American healthcare has always relied heavily on Catholic hospitals. Furthermore, the directions now apply to a variety of locations where people can receive reproductive health care, including urgent care facilities, physician offices, and outpatient surgery facilities that have been acquired by or combined with Catholic health systems.
They also hold true when Catholic healthcare organizations are contracted to oversee the delivery of medical services to other institutions, as was the case at Oberlin.
According to a 2020 report, four of the top 10 health care systems in the nation are Catholic. They control the market in some counties. The survey discovered that a Catholic hospital is the only one within a 45-minute drive in 52 localities.
Advocates for reproductive rights want legislation requiring hospital systems to be more open about the medical services they do and do not provide. New York legislators have proposed such a law.