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Restrictions on Health Care at Religiously Affiliated Medical Facilities

By Susan Levy, PSARA Outreach Vice President 

Patients may be at risk of being denied services at some religiously affiliated medical facilities in Washington. This will become increasingly commonplace as more secular hospitals merge (or affiliate) with religiously affiliated ones and come under the control of religiously affiliated health care corporations.

PSARA is working with the ACLU of Washington to ensure that no patient is refused access to lawful health care because of the religious doctrines of the institutions running hospitals, clinics, or other medical facilities. Health care facilities open to the general public should not refuse to provide reproductive health care and end-of-life care services; nor should they refuse to serve the full medical needs of LGBT people. Religious ideology should not dictate which health care services a patient may choose.

More and more Washington State hospitals have entered or are entering into relationships with religiously affiliated hospitals. Currently, about 40% of the hospital beds are in religiously affiliated hospitals.

Why does it matter whether a hospital is religiously affiliated? A hospital’s religious affiliation may impact access to health care services. For example, Catholic-affiliated hospitals follow the Ethical and Religious Directives for Catholic Health Care Services, which restrict access to reproductive and end-of-life health services, counseling, and referrals.

All Washington State residents should be able to make their end of life and reproductive health care decisions and be treated without discrimination. 

Can you help? Do you know of any examples where patients have been denied services or discriminated against in religious affiliated health care facilities? If so, please e-mail me at outreachVP@ Or, go to the ACLU-WA website: patient-and-provider-web-intake.

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