We are alarmed by the fact that pregnant women of color are more likely than their white counterparts to receive reproductive  health care dictated by bishops rather than medical doctors.

A new report that was released today by Columbia Law School Public Rights/Private Conscience Project (PRPCP) in partnership with Public Health Solutions reveals that in many states, women of color are far more likely than white women to give birth at Catholic hospitals, putting them at greater risk of having their health needs determined by the religious beliefs of bishops rather than the medical judgment of doctors.

The report entitled “Bearing Faith: The Limits of Catholic Health Care for Women of Color” explains that Catholic-affiliated hospitals are required to follow strict guidelines that prohibit doctors from providing contraceptives, sterilization, some treatments for ectopic pregnancy, abortion, and fertility services regardless of their patients’ wishes, the urgency of a patient’s medical condition, the doctor’s own medical judgment, or the standard of care in the medical profession.

The report comes out at a time when the White House announced the creation of the Conscience and Religious Freedom Division under the Department of Health and Human Services. This division will enforce religious exemption laws that are being adopted both by states and federally that allow for providers to use their religious beliefs to refuse to provide reproductive health services. Doctors, nurses, and hospitals are able to use theology to guide treatment, instead of a patient’s health and circumstance. According to the National Women’s Law Center, some hospitals have even turned away women whose miscarriages had become life-threatening.

The crux of Public Health Solutions’ mission and work is to fill in the gaps created by health disparities faced by vulnerable New Yorkers. Women of color face extraordinary barriers to adequate health, including lower rates of insurance coverage and higher rates of pregnancy complications.

Women of color deserve the best quality reproductive services and support. Religious exemption laws are a step in the wrong direction for our nation’s healthcare.

We are committed to holding our administration accountable for the fallout of laws that put women and families lives in danger.

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