Womens Health

Religious Restrictions for Pregnancy Treatment

| by National Womens Law Center
By Jill Morrison


Can you imagine learning that complications from your pregnancy put your health at risk and yet your hospital refuses to act?

This horrific reality has happened and can happen again. If your local hospital is religiously-affiliated, or employs doctors or nurses that have religious objections to providing needed medical care, it could even happen to you. Take our pledge and get informed about how religious refusals can affect your care.

In November 2010, a woman in southern Arizona who was fifteen weeks pregnant with twins miscarried one at home. She went to the only hospital available, a Catholic-affiliated hospital for treatment, only to be told that the miscarriage could not be completed because the remaining fetus still had a heartbeat. According to her treating doctor, nothing could be done to save the fetus, and without treatment the woman was at risk of hemorrhaging or developing a life threatening infection. Yet she was sent eighty miles away for treatment, because hospital administrators considered completing an inevitable miscarriage to be an abortion. 

This woman was denied the standard of care at the hospital in her community and subjected to an unnecessary delay in treatment while enduring a traumatic experience. One way to prevent this from happening to you is to know that it can happen and to ask the right questions of your health care providers. Pledge to empower yourself with the knowledge that individual health care provider or institutional religious refusals could affect your care or the care of someone you love.

Some religiously-affiliated hospitals allow religious doctrine, and not proven medical best practices, to dictate the kind of care and procedures that pregnant women can receive. In these hospitals, patient care and medical standards often run a distant second to religious doctrine and, as a result, women’s health can suffer and their lives can be at risk. Our newly released report, Below the Radar: Health Care Providers’ Religious Refusals Can Endanger Pregnant Women’s Lives and Health, explores this disturbing trend.

Knowledge is power. Empower yourself and others—take our pledge that you’ll learn more about how religious restrictions can affect your health care.