If you’re a woman who’s giving birth and you’re having a C-section, you might decide that you’re also done having kids and you’d like to have your tubes tied so there are no unplanned pregnancies in the future.
The doctor is already performing surgery, so performing a tubal ligation actually lets you kill two birds with one stone. It’s a safe procedure. Medical professionals even say that if you want your tubes tied, doing it during a C-section is a good idea because it doesn’t require an additional surgery. Nearly 30% of married adult women in the U.S. have had the procedure done. Not a big deal.
But what if you’re at a Catholic hospital? Doctors there will perform a C-section, no problem, but they will not perform a tubal ligation. Why not? Because they’re getting their directives, not from medical professionals, but from Catholic bishops. Basically, anything that functions as contraception is forbidden in the faith. And this rule applies even if future pregnancies would put the woman’s life in danger.
You may be aware that the Church opposes birth control, but the ban on tubal ligations is less well-known. Catholic hospitals also won’t perform vasectomies on men. And if a woman’s life is in jeopardy because she’s having an ectopic pregnancy and the fetus is stuck in one of her fallopian tubes, Catholic hospitals won’t allow the woman to take a drug that would abort the child to save her life. Instead, they’ll remove the whole fallopian tube, reducing her ability to get pregnant in the future, even though it’s medically unnecessary. Because that’s what Jesus would do.
While we’re at it, they also won’t help a woman trying to get pregnant through in-vitro fertilization or artificial insemination, because those things are outside the confines of marriage. And if a woman’s been raped, Catholic hospitals won’t give her emergency contraception.
They are more interested in adhering to arbitrary religious beliefs than providing quality health care.
This is a big deal because Catholic hospitals are everywhere. And in many states, they’re taking over local health care. A report from the ACLU says 1 in 9 hospital beds are now run by a Catholic health care system, and in some states, more than a quarter of hospitals are Church-sponsored or affiliated.
Oh, by the way, they get billions of dollars in taxpayer money from the government every year to keep this charade going.
Catholic health care also disproportionately affects poor people because they’re the ones who can’t always afford traditional check-ups, so they go to the hospital when things are really bad and they need immediate care. I hope, for their sake, that it’s not a reproductive issue.
So why talk about this now? Two reasons:
1) The ACLU recently sued a Catholic health care provider in San Francisco because a woman was denied a tubal ligation during a C-section. Because the hospitals around her were also Catholic, she would have needed to drive more than 160 miles to find one where the procedure could be done. The hospital eventually caved and said they’d make an exception for her, but it’s just a one-time thing. Other women shouldn’t have to fight this battle when it comes to making decisions about their own reproductive health.
2) American Atheists announced proposed legislation that would require all hospitals to be up front about what procedures they won’t do because of the provider’s religious beliefs. (Corporations are religious, my friend.)
I love the idea. It’s kind of like requiring Christian bakery owners to put up a sign on the front door saying “We don’t serve gays” in states where they’re allowed to do that. I hate that discrimination like that is legal at all, but if that’s the case, then I want to know which bakers are bigoted right up front so I can avoid them if at all possible.
Same with these hospitals. A lot of people choose to have babies or get elective procedures done at these Catholic hospitals because they simply don’t know any better. They have no clue that their care is limited to whatever the Catholic faith allows.
“Patients must be able to make fully informed decisions about their health care,” said Amanda Knief, National Legal and Public Policy Director for American Atheists, and author of the bill. “This legislation would help patients get the information they need to navigate the increasingly complicated — and increasingly religious — health care marketplace.”
The proposed legislation would require health care providers to simply provide a list of services they will not perform for religious reason to patients, potential patients, health insurers, and state and federal grant or subsidy programs. The health care providers and insurance issuers would then be required to make that information available online for potential patients.
Keep in mind that American Atheists isn’t saying Catholic hospitals can’t follow the dictates of the Catholic faith. They just shouldn’t be allowed to hide that fact. Tell us which procedures are banned so we can decide (if that’s in our power) whether or not to give you our business.
I don’t know if any politicians will take the bait and try to pass that bill, but it wouldn’t a bad thing if they did.
(Image via Shutterstock)