A report from the ACLU finds that one in six American hospital beds are in Catholic-affiliated facilities which prohibit giving certain types of reproductive care to women. Catholic-affiliated hospitals may refuse to provide services that are essential — even life-saving — to women of childbearing age, such as contraception, sterilization, infertility treatments, or abortion, when the life of the woman is in danger. The Catholic Church prohibits contraception and abortion in almost all cases. The catechism of the Church teaches that abortion is contrary to moral law. “Formal cooperation in an abortion constitutes a grave offense,” according to the Vatican website. The Ethical and Religious Directives for Catholic Health Care Services, set by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, dictate provision of care at Catholic healthcare facilities and forbid many types of contraceptive care. “Because of these rules, many Catholic hospitals across this country are withholding emergency care from patients who are in the midst of a miscarriage or experiencing other pregnancy complication,” the ACLU release reads.
A tragic example is the case of Savita Halappanavar, who died in an Irish hospital in 2012 after she was denied a medically necessary abortion. Despite the fact she was miscarrying and in severe pain, she was denied an abortion because the fetus still had a heartbeat. Her husband later told the BBC that staff at the hospital told them that Ireland was “a Catholic country” when they requested abortion care. The ACLU report finds that in the United States, there are more than 500 hospitals around the country affiliated with the Catholic Church. In many areas, these hospitals may be the only option. The report finds there are 46 Catholic-affiliated hospitals which are federally designated as the “sole community hospital” for their geographic region.