The Rising Threat of Religious Hospitals Denying Women Medical Care

Imagine you are 20 weeks pregnant, only halfway through your pregnancy, when you start to miscarry. It’s the middle of the night; you call an ambulance and are rushed to the hospital. The hospital admits you and consults with a specialist who concludes that the only option is to induce labor and complete the miscarriage — either way, the fetus will not survive. But without induction of labor you could die too. 

But instead of acting quickly to save your life, the hospital admits you and watches you get sicker and sicker. For 10 hours, the hospital will do nothing to complete the miscarriage, even though the hospital knows that every moment the miscarriage drags on increases your risk of contracting a life-threatening infection, which you ultimately do.

This is a true story — just one of several recently reported in the Guardian — of what happened to one woman because she went to a Catholic hospital. Rather than follow the standard of care, this hospital followed religious directives written by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. Although the hospital did not allow her to die, it waited until the risk of death was sufficiently imminent to give her the care she needed. Not everyone is so lucky

As Catholic hospitals proliferate in this country — right now, at least 10 of the 25 largest hospital systems are Catholic-affiliated — it’s more and more likely that pregnant women facing emergencies will unwittingly find themselves in a Catholic hospital that will refuse to provide medically appropriate care. These hospitals are subsidized by public funds, yet they adhere to religious policies that require doctors to withhold life- and health-saving medical care from the patients they serve. This is completely unacceptable.

And it is also illegal. When Catholic hospitals turn women away or withhold life-saving care because they let the bishops’ rules trump the medical standard of care, they are breaking the law. That’s why we brought the case against the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops on behalf of Tamesha Means, as well as other lawsuits to force a change in these policies. As these lawsuits work their way through the courts, we will continue to fight to ensure that women around the country can walk into a hospital and expect to receive medical care that isn’t restricted by religious directives. 

Catholic hospitals are gambling with women’s lives, plain and simple. We all have a right to our religious beliefs, but that does not mean we should be able to use those beliefs to harm others. Saving a woman’s life must be every hospital’s first priority.  

View comments (8)
Read the Terms of Use


I was in a hospital prep room, getting readied for a therapeutic abortion because the IUD, the Dalkon Shield, had perforated my uterus. I hadn't known I was pregnant because I had been spot bleeding; it was the persistent fever that sent me to the doctor--who got me admitted to the hospital the next day. I asked a nearby nurse to help me with a loose IV, and she put her nose up in the air and said she was a catholic and disagreed with my decision and would not assist me. I was very upset, and anther nurse helped me, and reported the catholicuckoo to the doctor...who patted arm...left me for a few minutes...and later in the recovery room, the nurse who helped me gleefully whispered to me that my quite angry doctor had told the catholicuckoo not to talk to any of her patients, to stay away from all her patients in the future, and 'dismissed' her. Here I faced the possibility of hemorrhaging to death--as other women had done trying to go to term with the IUD in place--pelvic inflammatory disease, and a deformed fetus--and this catholicuckoo nurse decided her religious beliefs were more important than doing her job.

Needless to say, I am rabidly pro-choice, and have no respect for religious freaks, who can't function in the real secular world.


How does it feel to be Satan's advisary? Yah know HE will not give you special favor. In fact HE will look at your hope in your eyes and then stab them out with great pleasure as you scream not only in pain but in full betrayal. This is what he loves so ready?


Freak! You ready? Your the hateful demon. Who do you think you are judging others.


are you supposed to make a point. i dont understand what that ha to do with anything.

John Leake

I address the person “Anonymous” with the religious insanity issue. Hello Anonymous. You poor retched creature thinking you are somehow uplifted by your inability to fully understand the full meaning of the insanity you embrace and hatred you spew and righteous condemnation of all that do not agree with your unprovable illusion called religion. You certainly have my permission to fully refuse to accept any and all medical intervention to save your life, however; you, not being your deity, have no right whatsoever to even begin to think out loud and choose suffering and possible death to anyone at all upon this planet other than yourself. You have fully violated your deities right to judge. You are certainly not the creator. You poor retched person believing you are so in the know that you have fully missed all the actual teachings of your deity. Religion is, in my opinion, the most insane and destructive invention man has ever devised upon this planet. It encourages people like “Anonymous” to spout ill advised decisions to withhold, subjugate, discriminate, put down anything that the human religious law makers happen to write in a book and call the word of a deity. It is fully insane and without foundation. Now, I can prove my belief system. It is simple. I was created, you were created, I see you, you see me, I look around and see creation everywhere. This is, as far as anyone can know, true and provable. All other religious texts are fully a creation of men desiring to control the masses and they certainly have “Anonymous” under control. Any institution or business receiving taxpayer money shall uphold the laws and reasonable medical practice set forth by medical science and not some insane book exclaiming it is the word of some imaginary person in the sky. Reality is the key here, not a vivid imagination and belief in an invisible person in the sky. If I had been the Doctor, the person who made such an unacceptable, and certainly a statement contrary to the spirit of Christianity, would have been terminated on the spot and everyone employed at the hospital put on notice that this behavior is unacceptable. “Anonymous” you want true spirit and meaningful direction on how you should be interacting with other humans, look to the example of Mother Teresa of India. She did not judge because it is not her right to do so. As with you, it is not for you to judge. Shame on you.

Sister Mary

John Leake, you stand on firm ground.

Marion (Mael Muire)

If it is, as you say, "against the law" for hospitals not to perform abortions in certain cases, then why aren't the Attorneys General for the districts in which the hospitals are located, putting a stop to the practice?


WTF "okay we'll help him immidiately with this fatal disease! what? Shes a woman? Eh she can wait. It's only a miscarriage!"

Stay Informed