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Understanding patient experiences with obstetric care in Catholic health care facilities

Lori Freedman, PhD, University of California, San Francisco

Project abstract

Ten out of the 25 largest health care networks in the United States are Catholic owned/affiliated. With the growth of this health care sector, important questions emerge about patient-physician-institution dynamics.

Physicians have reported that they feel their hands are often tied by religious hospital policies that prohibit all abortions when it comes to managing miscarriage, PPROM, and other obstetric complications. However, there is an enormous gap in knowledge about the experiences of patients who receive (or attempt to receive) reproductive and ob-gyn care in Catholic health care settings. While there is general awareness that Catholic sponsored/affiliated health care facilities restrict reproductive health care services according to Catholic doctrine, little is known about how that impacts patient experiences with care, how aware they are of religious policies, and what they think about them.

The proposed study seeks to conduct an online survey of 400 women, and to conduct 30 in-depth interviews of women drawn from the survey sample in order to understand patient experiences with pregnancy-related care—including pregnancy loss, miscarriage, abortion, sterilization, contraception—and/or refusals to provide any of that care due to facility compliance with Catholic doctrine.

Information on patients' perception and experiences of care in Catholic settings will augment related work that examines physician experiences providing reproductive health care in facilities governed by Catholic doctrine. Combined, this information will provide the most comprehensive understanding to-date of how Catholic doctrine shapes ob-gyn practice in the United States.

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