Separation of Church and Birth Control?

The Roman Catholic Church prohibits sterilization. Many women, particularly those who have just had a baby, choose sterilization (also known as a tubal ligation) as a permanent form of birth control after they have decided not to have more children. This procedure is also very commonly performed immediately after a c-section (which accounts for 30% of all births these days) when a woman chooses it.

Sierra Vista Regional Medical Center in Southeastern Arizona has recently partnered with Carondelet Health Network, a Catholic not-for-profit health care system that follows the doctrine of the Roman Catholic Church. Therefore, as a condition of the partnership, the hospital will stop performing sterilization procedures. The CEO of Sierra Vista insists that ‘we are not taking away anyone’s rights,” and states that these procedures can be done in a doctor’s office.

The obstetricians that perform tubal ligations at Sierra Vista (200 were performed in 2009) are up in arms and at least one is considering moving her practice out of Sierra Vista, and several are contemplating seeking privileges in other facilities because of this decision. Some OB doctors said that they would not perform a tubal in their offices and prefer a hospital setting. It is an invasive procedure and has its risks.

For me, this is yet another assault on a woman’s right to choose her preferred method of birth control. Sure, women can still choose sterilization, but must now recover from childbirth and then have yet another event to recover from thereafter. For those women who have c-sections, this is especially terrible as it’s relatively simple to quickly perform a tubal immediately after the baby is born as to avoid a second invasive surgery. It makes the most sense and is safer for the mother. Denying a woman this choice is indeed taking away her rights. It’s not even as if the women of Cochise County can even go anywhere else in their county to birth because according to the article, the other hospitals in the county don’t deliver babies.

The other problems here are these. There are other reproductive issues that the Catholic church takes a strong stand on. Birth control and abortion being two hot-button issues. Where will Carondelet draw the line? Will doctors be permitted to save a pregnant woman’s life at the expense of her unborn child if such a medical emergency arises? Will a woman be permitted to have an abortion if a medical condition related to pregnancy is threatening her life? Will doctors who offer women other methods of birth control be barred from providing that service to women and still be able to retain privileges at Sierra Vista? These are all rights and circumstances that women and their doctors have been accustomed to receiving-and rightfully deserve under the law, and in my opinion, under moral law. Denying women medical procedures because of religious beliefs of the entity running the hospital sets a dangerous precedent and who knows what other lines will be crossed.

Cochise County has 19 people per square mile and a total population of 129,000 people. This is a rural place. These women would have to go to Tucson to deliver and also receive a tubal. Tucson is 70 miles away.