Original Research Obstetrics| Volume 218, ISSUE 2, P251.e1-251.e9, February 2018

Religious hospital policies on reproductive care: what do patients want to know?

Published:December 05, 2017DOI:


      Religious hospitals are a large and growing part of the American healthcare system. Patients who receive obstetric and other reproductive care in religious hospitals may face religiously-based restrictions on the treatment their doctor can provide. Little is known about patients’ knowledge or preferences regarding religiously restricted reproductive healthcare.


      We aimed to assess women’s preferences for knowing a hospital’s religion and religiously based restrictions before deciding where to seek care and the acceptability of a hospital denying miscarriage treatment options for religious reasons, with and without informing the patient that other options may be available.

      Study Design

      We conducted a national survey of women aged 18–45 years. The sample was recruited from AmeriSpeak, a probability-based research panel of civilian noninstitutionalized adults. Of 2857 women invited to participate, 1430 completed surveys online or over the phone, for a survey response rate of 50.1%. All analyses adjusted for the complex sampling design and were weighted to generate estimates representative of the population of US adult reproductive-age women. We used χ2 tests and multivariable logistic regression to evaluate associations.


      One third of women aged 18–45 years (34.5%) believe it is somewhat or very important to know a hospital’s religion when deciding where to get care, but 80.7% feel it is somewhat or very important to know about a hospital’s religious restrictions on care. Being Catholic or attending religious services more frequently does not make one more or less likely to want this information. Compared with Protestant women who do not identify as born-again, women of other religious backgrounds are more likely to consider it important to know a hospital’s religious affiliation. These include religious minority women (adjusted odds ratio, 2.17; 95% confidence interval, 1.11–4.27), those who reported no religion/atheist/agnostic (adjusted odds ratio, 2.27; 95% confidence interval, 1.19–4.34), and born-again Protestants (adjusted odds ratio, 2.38; 95% confidence interval, 1.32–4.28). Religious minority women (adjusted odds ratio, 2.36; 95% confidence interval, 1.01–5.51) and those who reported no religion/atheist/agnostic (adjusted odds ratio, 3.16; 95% confidence interval, 1.42–7.04) were more likely to want to know a hospital’s restrictions on care. More than two thirds of women find it unacceptable for the hospital to restrict information and treatment options during miscarriage based on religion. Women who attended weekly religious services were significantly more likely to accept such restrictions (adjusted odds ratio, 3.13; 95% confidence interval, 1.70–5.76) and to consider transfer to another site an acceptable solution (adjusted odds ratio, 3.22; 95% confidence interval, 1.69–6.12). The question, “When should a religious hospital be allowed to restrict care based on religion?” was asked, and 52.3% responded never; 16.6%, always; and 31.1%,“under some conditions.


      The vast majority of adult American women of reproductive age want information about a hospital’s religious restrictions on care when deciding where to go for obstetrics/gynecology care. Growth in the US Catholic health care sector suggests an increasing need for transparency about these restrictions so that women can make informed decisions and, when needed, seek alternative providers.

      Key words

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