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The bioethics of reproductive health care in Catholic-affiliated hospitals and clinics

Lori Freedman, University of California, San Francisco, Bixby Center for Global Reproductive Health - ANSIRH, 2012

Project abstract

Dr. Lori Freedman seeks a career development award to support her training in bioethics and apply that training to expand her research on reproductive health care in Catholic-affiliated hospitals and clinics.

While Catholic-affiliated hospitals care for one in six US patients, they uniformly prohibit all abortion care and many other reproductive health services. The effects of these prohibitions are not well researched or understood, though previous research indicates that not only do some patients experience significant barriers to safe and timely miscarriage management, ectopic pregnancy, and abortion for a variety of maternal health indications, but also that physicians attempting to manage these complications are impeded by institutional rights of conscience superseding their own.

Dr. Freedman's training in bioethics will allow her to bring these concerns to a wider audience of bioethicists, leaders in health care, and policy makers. Furthermore, Dr. Freedman will expand her research on Catholic hospital care under this award, which includes 1) completing 10 additional interviews focusing in on the most relevant subjects for the study at this stage and 2) conducting a case study of one facility that has formally disaffiliated from the Catholic Church, but is undergoing a period of significant conflict between physicians and hospital administration about including doctrine-based restrictions in their new bylaws.

The proposed training and research will heavily inform Dr. Freedman's dissemination of her research findings in articles and a planned book on the topic and provide meaningful contributions to policy discussions about legally protected institutional rights of conscience.

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