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Bishops and Bodies: Reproductive Care in American Catholic Hospitals (Critical Issues in Health and Medicine)

Bishops and Bodies: Reproductive Care in American Catholic Hospitals (Critical Issues in Health and Medicine)

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Publication Date: July 14th, 2023
Rutgers University Press
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One out of every six patients in the United States is treated in a Catholic hospital that follows the policies of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. These policies prohibit abortion, sterilization, contraception, some treatments for miscarriage and gender confirmation, and other reproductive care, undermining hard-won patients’ rights to bodily autonomy and informed decision-making. Drawing on rich interviews with patients and providers, this book reveals both how the bishops’ directives operate and how people inside Catholic hospitals navigate the resulting restrictions on medical practice. In doing so, Bishops and Bodies fleshes out a vivid picture of how The Church’s stance on sex, reproduction, and “life” itself manifests in institutions that affect us all.

About the Author

LORI FREEDMAN is a sociologist, bioethicist, and professor of obstetrics, gynecology, and reproductive sciences with the Advancing New Standards in Reproductive Health (ANSIRH) program of the Bixby Center for Global Reproductive Health at the University of California, San Francisco. She is the author of Willing and Unable: Doctors’ Constraints in Abortion Care.

DEBRA STULBERG is a professor and department chair of family medicine at the University of Chicago.

Praise for Bishops and Bodies: Reproductive Care in American Catholic Hospitals (Critical Issues in Health and Medicine)

"Shortly after the Supreme Court issued its opinion in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, horrific stories began to emerge from hospitals across the country. To many, these denials of emergency medical care seemed to be an alarming new consequence of the Supreme Court’s decision. Lori Freedman, however, has documented such stories for well over a decade. We would do well to study her work carefully — including her book Bishops and Bodies: Reproductive Care in American Catholic Hospitals — in this critical moment.
— Catholics for Choice

“It’s a recipe for disaster—the Catholic Church wants the most births possible, and most American women want to limit their childbearing and protect their health with modern advances in contraception and abortion. Yet in the name of corporate conscience, our anachronistic laws allow Catholic healthcare to require physicians of all faiths to do things that violate medical ethics and often constitute malpractice. Freedman’s compelling research, rich storytelling, and incisive analysis reveal how outrageous Bishop-knows-best medicine really is.”
— Katie Watson

"Bishops and Bodies is poised to make a significant impact not just in social science and medical humanities circles, but in broader public conversations about health care, reproductive rights, and the place of religion in society."
— Jessica Martucci