A new study found that 55 percent of Catholic hospitals and 42 percent of non-Catholic hospitals in the United States do not dispense emergency contraception in their emergency departments under any circumstances. The study, conducted by Ibis Reproductive Health and published in the American College of Emergency Physicians’ Annals of Emergency Medicine found that of the non-Catholic facilities, 45 percent said that emergency contraception (EC) was only available to sexual assault survivors, meaning a woman would have to file a policy report in order to receive EC.
Of the Catholic hospitals that provide EC, 79 percent said they only dispense the pills to sexual assault survivors and 19 percent said they require a physician on duty to decide whether to dispense EC. At the time of the study six states had laws requiring hospitals to provide EC, but researches found that 40 percent of hospitals in these states did not provide EC. At non-Catholic hospitals 52 percent and at Catholic hospitals 42 percent of hospitals stating that they do not provide EC gave callers a valid referral to a facility where EC might be obtained. When follow-up calls were made, 80 percent of the referrals given by non-Catholic hospitals and 65 percent given by Catholic hospitals were either the wrong number or to facilities that were closed on weekends.
Teresa Harrison, a project manager at Ibis and study author, said the study findings demonstrate the “importance” of making EC available without a prescription. “The findings from this study illustrate the barriers that women face when trying to access emergency contraception from hospital emergency departments, particularly outside of regular business hours,” said Harrison.