Imagine you’re an OB/GYN doing a C-section on a woman who’s had six previous C-sections. She says she’s done having kids and has asked to have her tubes tied at the same time as the C-section, which is standard procedure. But if you work at a Catholic hospital, you can’t do it—they officially prohibit sterilization.
“I’m thinking, you know, if I tie her tubes I’m going to get kicked off the staff. And I just don’t think that’s right,” said a doctor who faced just such a scenario.
And she isn’t alone in her frustration. According to a first-of-its-kind study, OB/GYNs across the country are concerned that the Catholic ban on tubal ligations (the clinical term for “tying tubes”) poses a “risk of harm” to women by violating the accepted standard of care, especially for women who are already getting a C-section and would need an unnecessary second surgery. “[If] someone who’s had four C-sections before has to have another operation to get her tubes tied, that’s not what’s in her best interest by any stretch of the imagination,” said another doctor in the study.
Thanks to the battle over contraception coverage in the Affordable Care Act, it isn’t news that many Catholic institutions do not provide contraceptives. But less attention has been paid to the fact that Catholic hospitals already have a “conscience exemption” under federal law from providing contraceptive sterilization, which is the second most common form of birth control in the United States. And despite the availability of sterilization procedures at outpatient surgical centers, in-hospital tubal ligation remains such a popular procedure that one in 10 childbirths ends with one.