Women in Bartlesville, Okla., will be denied access to birth control now that the town’s medical center has been acquired by the Catholic healthcare organization Ascension Health Alliance. The Bartlesville Examiner-Enterprise reports that doctors affiliated with the Jane Phillips Medical Center (JPMC) have been issued a directive prohibiting them from prescribing contraceptives.
According to the JPMC website, the St. Louis based Ascension Health Alliance, will take control of the medical center April 1.
“Ascension Health is the largest Catholic and largest nonprofit health system in the nation,” the announcement read.
“This affiliation links St. John and the two other health systems joining Ascension Health to an innovative organization with a like-minded commitment to our mission, a culture of safety, as well as a focus on providing person-centered care,” said president of JPMC’s parent company, St. John Health System.
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A number of women told the Examiner-Enterprise they were not sure the change would be positive. All of the women quoted in the story were concerned about the new directive regarding contraception. The directive would allow women to be prescribed oral contraceptives for reasons other than birth control; headaches, cramps and excessive bleeding among them.
“I was given the impression that birth control for those reasons would be overlooked, but I have no desire to stretch the truth or fabricate a reason,” said one woman who asked to remain anonymous. “This is between me and my physician. This is about my health care. Why should we have to commit borderline insurance fraud because I want to maintain my health care?”
Intrauterine devices, another form of contraception, will also be disallowed.
“I personally find it infuriating that restrictions on birth control, and especially IUDs, are being forced upon our doctors,” said another woman. “My health care decisions should be up to me and not based on the religious beliefs of others. Those decisions should be made based upon what is best for me and my family.”
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Cheena Pazzo, director of St. John Health System Community and Physician Relations, issued a statement via email that offered a reason for the new directive.
“Consistent with all Catholic health care organizations, St. John Health System operates in accordance with the Ethical and Religious Directives for Catholic Health Facilities,” the statement read.
Ascension Health operates 113,000 facilities nationwide. According to the Examiner-Enterprise the company has published literature indicating that it is decidedly against health practices that would cause the death of a fetus.