WATERLOO — Wheaton Franciscan Healthcare will no longer allow vasectomies or tubal ligations to be performed at Covenant Medical Center.
The announcement indicates the move is based on the hospital’s affiliation with the Roman Catholic church.
“Like all Catholic health care organizations, Wheaton Franciscan Healthcare is called to adhere to the Ethical and Religious Directives for Catholic Health Care Services (ERDs),” the statement read. “We have been meeting with our providers and colleagues to ensure the medical services we provide are in accordance with these guidelines for Catholic health care services.
“Wheaton Franciscan Healthcare is no longer scheduling patients for vasectomies or tubal ligations,” it continued. “Wheaton Franciscan Healthcare remains committed to caring for the patients and communities we serve in the spirit of our Catholic values.”
Hospital officials said they would not speak beyond the official statement.
Covenant is part of the Wheaton Franciscan Healthcare-Iowa organization, a faith-based, 511-bed health-care organization providing comprehensive care at Covenant, Sartori in Cedar Falls and Mercy Hospital in Oelwein.
It is part of the 140-year system of care sponsored by the Wheaton Franciscan Sisters, formally incorporated in 1983. In 2016, the Wheaton Franciscan Sisters transferred Iowa operations to Mercy Health Network based out of Des Moines. Mercy Hospital in Des Moines also bans the procedures.
A tubal ligation — commonly known as getting one’s “tubes tied” — is a permanent form of birth control in which a woman’s fallopian tubes are sealed off, preventing eggs from being fertilized.
The stoppage of the two birth control procedures at religious-affiliated hospitals is a growing trend, which has faced criticism as the number of Catholic hospital beds continues to grow.
A position statement from the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists in 2016 and reaffirmed this year, noted the organization was concerned about the growing number of U.S. hospitals that limit the scope of reproductive health care services.
“Women should have access to scientifically based health care,” ACOG said. “Prohibitions on essential care that are based on religious or other nonscientific grounds can jeopardize women’s health and safety.”
MergerWatch, a nonprofit organization which advocates patient rights over religious and ethical beliefs, published a 2016 report indicating the number of acute care Catholic hospitals grew by 22 percent between 2001 and 2016, while the overall number of acute care hospitals fell by 6 percent.
Iowa had 42.1 percent of its acute care beds in hospitals operating under Catholic health restrictions, the second-highest rate in the nation behind Alaska, according to the MergerWatch report.