Disturbing Findings in an Emergency Room Survey

Catholics for a Free Choice recently conducted a nationwide survey of 589 Catholic hospital emergency rooms to determine if emergency contraception was available to women who requested it. Women called emergency rooms anonymously to ask: “Is the ‘morning-after pill’ available?” When the response was “sometimes,” the caller asked under what circumstances it was available; when the response was “no,” the caller asked for a referral.

Out of the 589 hospitals surveyed, 82% denied women emergency contraception, even in cases of rape. Only 22% of the emergency rooms that did not provide emergency contraception provided a useful referral.

Of emergency rooms that did not provide a referral, 13% of the staff hung up on the caller before she was able to request a referral, and in 35% of the cases the staff was rude or verbally abusive to the caller.

Of the 91 Catholic hospitals that are sole providers of hospital services in their areas, 75% do not offer emergency contraception under any circumstances.

Variations were found in Catholic hospital policies concerning emergency contraception. CFFC found that of the 55 hospitals that provided emergency contraception to rape victims (9% of the 589 hospitals surveyed), six hospitals required the rape victim to report the assault to the police first. This additional barrier may discourage women who are reluctant to report the rape to the police from seeking emergency contraception.

Some hospitals provide emergency contraception within 72 hours, others within 24 hours, while some refuse to provide it at all. These inconsistencies pose an especially serious problem for women in time-sensitive situations, such as those needing emergency contraception. When a woman seeks help at a Catholic hospital emergency room, she may not know that she may be refused access to this birth control method.

To obtain a copy of the study, “Caution: Catholic Restrictions May be
Hazardous to Your Health,” contact Catholics for a Free Choice at www.cath4choice.org or 202-986-6093.

Article reprinted with permission from ProChoice Resource Center and the Planned Parenthood Federation of America.

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