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.