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Open Access Publications from the University of California

The UCSF Bixby Center for Global Reproductive Health was formed in 1999 to address the health, social, and economic consequences of sex and reproduction through research and training in contraception, family planning, and STIs. The Bixby Center strives to develop preventive solutions to the most pressing domestic and international reproductive health problems.

Cover page of When There’s a Heartbeat: Miscarriage Management in Catholic-Owned Hospitals

When There’s a Heartbeat: Miscarriage Management in Catholic-Owned Hospitals


As Catholic-owned hospitals

merge with or take over other

facilities, they impose restrictionsonreproductivehealth


including abortion and

contraceptive services. Our interviews

with US obstetrician–

gynecologists working in Catholic-

owned hospitals revealed

that they are also restricted in

managing miscarriages.

Catholic-owned hospital

ethics committees denied approval

of uterine evacuation

while fetal heart tones

were still present, forcing physicians

to delay care or transport

miscarrying patients to

non–Catholic-owned facilities.

Some physicians intentionally

violated protocol because they

felt patient safetywas compromised.

Although Catholic doctrine

officially deems abortion

permissible to preserve the life

of the woman, Catholic-owned

hospital ethics committees

differ in their interpretation of

how much health risk constitutes

a threat to a woman’s

life and therefore how much

risk must be present before

they approve the intervention.