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Patient awareness of religious restrictions in Catholic healthcare—PARRCH Survey

Lori Freedman, PhD, University of California, San Francisco

Project abstract

Catholic health networks have expanded substantially in recent years. These facilities follow the Ethical and Religious Directives for Catholic Healthcare Services, which prohibit abortion, contraception, sterilization, and certain treatment for obstetrical complications or miscarriage.

Yet little is known about patients’ awareness of religious restrictions on care. Defenders of institutionally based conscience rights assert women can simply choose other providers if they do not want a religiously affiliated provider. But if women are not aware of the hospital’s affiliation or how Catholic institutions restrict reproductive health care, then they do not have a meaningful choice.

Previous research suggests that many patients are unaware of their hospital’s religious affiliation or the related implications for care, but no study has assessed these questions with a nationally representative study. We will survey a nationally representative sample of women ages 18-45 drawn from AmeriSpeak, a probability-based research panel operated by NORC at the University of Chicago. Our approach will allow us to measure the proportion of women able to discern whether a hospital has a Catholic affiliation and what that affiliation means for reproductive health care.

The resulting data will generate evidence that may be useful in policy work underway to push back on the use of religion to discriminate against women and limit their care. The survey will also generate a sub-sample of women who are willing to be interviewed further and have experienced restricted care in a Catholic hospital, a very hard population to reach. The new sample will be interviewed in future research.


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