A majority of women want to know about restrictions on care imposed by some religious hospitals, based on data from a survey of 1,430 women.

The survey results, published in the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology, showed that 35% of women thought knowing a hospital’s religion was important when choosing care, but many more – 81% – said that knowing a hospital’s religious restrictions on care was important.

The discrepancy between respondents’ desire to know a hospital’s religious orientation and to know any religious restrictions suggests that many women may have been unaware of restrictions before taking the survey, wrote Lori R. Freedman, PhD, of the University of California, San Francisco, and her colleagues.

Religious hospitals in the United States, 70% of which are Catholic, are a growing part of the health care system, but “no prior studies have asked women from across the United States what information they have and want to have before deciding where to seek care for a miscarriage or other reproductive condition that may be affected by the hospital’s religion,” the researchers said.

The researchers conducted an online survey of women aged 18-45 years who were part of the AmeriSpeak panel, a national database that includes civilian, noninstitutionalized adults. Approximately one-quarter (24%) of the women reported attending a weekly religious service.

Overall, Catholic women were no more likely than non-Catholic women to state that knowing a hospital’s religion or religious-based care restrictions was important. For example, 71% of the participants overall said an acceptable option was to admit a patient, inform her of all treatment options for miscarriage, and refer her elsewhere if she chose an option not available on religious grounds.

“ACOG recommends that institutions make information about all reproductive options available to patients and safeguard patients’ rights to access care consistent with the patient’s own values; however, Catholic hospitals may lack financial, legal, and ideological incentives to voluntarily comply with ACOG’s recommendations,” the researchers noted.

The study findings were limited by several factors, including the use of a panel-based sample and a response rate of approximately 50%. The results, however, suggest that patients need more complete information before choosing a hospital, the researchers said.

The researchers had no financial conflicts to disclose; Dr. Freedman was supported by the Greenwall Foundation. The study was supported by the Society for Family Planning.

SOURCE: Freedman LR et al. Am J Obstet Gynecol. 2018;218:251.e1-9.