Catholic Hospitals and Birth Control

My healthcare network recently merged with a Catholic hospital, and now they won't renew my prescription for birth control pills. Is that legal?

Although this situation is very inconvenient, increasing numbers of women are finding themselves in the same predicament - when secular and Catholic healthcare networks merge, contraceptive medications, devices, and procedures are often the first things to go. A report to be released soon reveals that right around half of all secular-nonsecular merges result in a loss of some or all fertility and reproductive treatments. And, for now, this is perfectly legal.

Catholic hospitals and healthcare providers must align themselves with guidelines established by the National Conference of Catholic Bishops. These guidelines are the main source of friction when a merger takes place; when it comes to women and their reproductive options, Catholic religious beliefs are often at odds with the services provided by most nonsecular healthcare providers. Procedures such as steriliztion and abortion, and contraceptives are banned, as well as some fertility treatments, according to the guidelines.

So what are a woman's options in this scenario? She could file a complaint with her HMO to see if they make any exceptions to their policy, although this is very unlikely. If possible, she may also consider switching to another company or provider that is willing to meet her needs. However, there are certain tricks that she may use in order to get the care she wants out of her current plan. While contraceptive methods such as an IUD serve just one purpose, others are prescribed for other uses. Birth control pills are the most obvious example, since they are regularly prescribed for dysmenorrhea, PMS, menstrual irregularity and acne. A woman may still receive her pills, but may have to request them for treating another condition. If the institution or doctor refuses to prescribe them for a legitimate non-contraceptive reason, then she might consider filing a complaint against both.

Of course, while these mergers and subsequent losses of services are legal now, that may not be the case in the future. After all, it isn't inconceivable that enough women could protest and cause some important legislation to be debated - and maybe even passed into federal law. Employers are the main payors of health insurance plans that in turn contract with the health networks. Women at large companies can make their concerns known to Human Resources department or any labor unions that represent them.

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