As Catholic Hospitals Block Tubal Ligations, Women Lose Out

By the time I had my third child, as well as my fourth pregnancy in four years, I was more than willing to call it quits when it came to having more children. A late miscarriage in between the births of my first two babies, followed by an unplanned pregnancy shortly after giving birth to my second, meant that I had spent a large portion of three years straight pregnant, and I was completely sure I never wanted to do it again. By the time I laid in the operating room, undergoing my second C-section in just over 13 months, I was just as eager to be sure that my doctor was following through on our plan to have my tubes tied while I was there as I was to see the face of what would be my newest and last infant.

For me, completely solid in my knowledge that I was done with gestating, combining sterilization and birth was the perfect way to end that period of my fertility. Permanent sterilization meant no more worries about an unplanned pregnancy, no need for the hormonal swings that can come with contraception or the expense of IUDs or implants, which at that time were not covered by insurance. I didn’t have to think about refilling birth control, and since I was already in the hospital, the procedure was covered as part of the maxed-out out-of-pocket medical expenses I already had for just bringing another child into the world.

It’s a convenient and economically friendly process that way, but it’s now one that is open to fewer and fewer women. While the medical industry continues to collapse and consolidate, more hospitals are merging with Catholic based entities, and part of the price of partnership is an adherence to Catholic healthcare directives that claim that there is never a justifiable reason to allow a woman to have a tubal ligation.

According to Pro-Publica, the U.S Council of Catholic Bishops is taking a harder line than ever before on forcing hospitals to refuse tubal ligation and any sterilization, and it is having a massive effect on the ability to obtain the procedure. Catholic hospitals that had previously turned a blind eye to the prohibition, and allowed women who were already undergoing caesarian sections to have tubal ligation during the surgery, are now being forbidden to continue the practice. That leaves patients with the options of either finding another hospital to perform a second surgery at least six weeks after birth, and incurring a separate risk of surgery as well as additional costs, or going with a less permanent method, in some cases leading to unwanted pregnancies and birth.

“In one study of new mothers in Texas who were denied a tubal ligation after childbirth, nearly 50 percent had an unplanned pregnancy within 12 months,” reports Pro-Publica. “‘It’s not just a convenience thing,’ said [Sarah Ward] Prager, who is vice chair of the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists’ Committee on Health Care for Underserved Women. Denying postpartum sterilizations ‘has very real consequences for entire families,’ she said.”

The policy itself is one that stands counter to medical ethics, where Bishops are literally forbidding one type of care in order to stick to their religious beliefs, even though that decision could endanger that patient’s health down the road, either by later surgery or pregnancy risk. This becomes an even greater concern as Catholic hospitals take over a greater share of the available care options, forcing more patients to adhere to religious principles in their health care that they themselves may not practice.

“[W]ith private insurance plans increasingly restricting patientsí choice of hospitals and with one in six patients in the U.S. receiving care at Catholic hospitals, more women are at risk of running afoul of Catholic health restrictions,” Patricia Miller writes at the Atlantic.†”Women say, ‘this isnít my religion, why does this apply to me?’ [Dr. Debra Stulberg of the University of Chicago] says, ‘The church and the hospital say this is elective [or nonessential], but women donít always have choices.’”

Looking back at my own final birth and sterilization, I see now how lucky I was that my doctor and my insurance both offered me the choice of a private hospital, unaffiliated with any religious organizations, where I could receive the reproductive options that best suited my needs. When a person has decided she is no longer interested in having children, it should be up to her, not to the Catholic bishops writing medical directives. As hospital mergers increase, however, that choice, like so many others involving pregnancy, may be lost to us for good.

Photo credit: Thinkstock

126 comments

Jerome S
Jerome S1 years ago

thanks

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Jim Ven
Jim V1 years ago

thanks for sharing.

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Teresa W.
Teresa W4 years ago

yes, Sarah

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Sarah Hill
Sarah Hill4 years ago

The Catholic church is against any form of contraception. If you want to get some for of it, go to another hospital.

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Rhonda B.
Rhonda B4 years ago

noted

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Vanessa Skjonnemand

It is wrong on so many levels to deny women a safer, chemical-free and hormone-free form of contraception.

Some women, have disorders which make them sensitive to estrogen - like Factor V Leiden which means if you have too much estrogen, you could develop a clot which could very quickly kill you by way of a stroke or pulmonary edema. For women with clotting disorders, they cannot take birth control (or HRT) containing estrogen (although supposedly, the progesterone only birth control is safe).

Pfizer, the company who makes Depo Provera, (the injectable birth control) is being sued because people claim it increases breast cancer risk and many women have developed the cancer after being on it.

The Mirena (Bayer Pharmaceuticals) is also having a lawsuit filed against it as the device can sometimes "move around" and has been known to occasionally cause uterine perforation, ectopic pregnancy and Pelvic Inflammatory Disease.

And as far as I am aware, ALL oral contraceptives have the disclaimer that alcohol and antibiotics can render them ineffective for a short period of time - during which you will also need to use a condom. This is itself is not a game-changer but few doctors will actually warn you about this and instead leave it up to you to read the consumer information brochure that comes in the box. I do not know a single person other than myself who actually does read these when prescribed a new medication. I believe this would account for quite a number of wo

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Jonathan Harper
Jonathan Harper4 years ago

noted

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Leanne B.
Leanne B4 years ago

Thank you. It seems to me women are always being controlled by men and their will.

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Winn Adams
Winn Adams4 years ago

No kidding. Women plus the Catholic Church equals loosing out period.

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john hall
john hall4 years ago

Here we go again it's my body it's my decision,it's between me and my doctor.....yes your right when you pay for it with your own money...My health insurance does'nt pay for a Vasectomy or for my wife to have her tubes tied. It's just the way it is and i think the catholic church is wrong about this....but oh well..you just deal with it.

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