Fairhaven Associate Professor Hilary Schwandt and students, Bethany Sparkle and Moriah Post-Kinney, publish reproductive health research

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Bethany Sparkle and Moriah Post-Kinney participated in a group research project on awareness of reproductive health restrictions at Catholic affiliated hospitals in my 206: Science and Our Place on the Planet and Statistics courses. The project was so great - and inspired all three of us to work together on a similar topic to take it a bit further. We set up a meeting with Mount Baker Planned Parenthood and they suggested we review all of the Washington State hospital reproductive health policies, as hospitals were recently mandated to post those policies by the governor. We went for it, and this is what we found: in Washington State 50% of hospital beds are in religiously owned hospitals, which is 3x the national average. Reproductive healthcare at Catholic hospitals is affected by the Ethical and Religious Directives (ERDs). ERD interpretation varies by hospital and local bishop. We reviewed the policies of 88 different hospitals. All hospital reproductive health policies, regardless of Catholic affiliation, provided more confusion than clarity in terms of reproductive health service provision. I have since provided written and oral testimony in Olympia to further advance government efforts via HB1686 to increase the transparency of these reproductive health care barriers at hospitals to the public.


In 2014, the governor of Washington State mandated that
all Washington State hospitals publically post their hospital’s
reproductive health policy. The public was concerned
about the lack of clarity on how hospitals handled various
aspects of reproductive health care – especially given the
high, and growing, number of Catholic affiliated hospitals
in the state. The objective of this study is to assess the
clarity of abortion and contraception service provision in
those hospital reproductive health policies for the public
in Washington State. All Washington State hospital reproductive
health policies (n = 88) were analyzed in 2016.
Results were examined according to Catholic affiliation of
the hospital. Most hospital reproductive health policies,
regardless of Catholic affiliation, provided more confusion
than clarity in terms of abortion and contraceptive service
provision. The impact of Catholic, and non-Catholic, affiliated
hospital care for abortion and contraceptive service
provision is concerning. Given the difficulties in meeting the goals of increased abortion and contraceptive healthcare
guideline transparency for the public through hospital
policy language, the authors recommend use of a
standardized checklist by hospitals to convey abortion and
contraceptive service provision. The authors also recommend
that patients have more positive rights to information
and services to counter balance the negative rights
afforded to providers to op-out of providing abortion and
contraceptive services.

Schwandt HMSparkle B, Post-Kinney M. (2018). Ambiguities in Washington State hospital policies, irrespective of Catholic affiliation, regarding abortion and contraception service provision. Reproductive Health 15:178. doi.org/10.1186/s12978-018-0621-5

Download full paper Schwandt_et_al-2018-Reproductive_Health