RACINE — Starting in July, tubal ligation at Ascension All Saints in Racine will reportedly no longer be an option, according to multiple hospital employees.
The medical procedure — commonly known in the vernacular 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.
An Ascension spokesperson would not confirm or deny the July date staff members in Racine provided — a date which five separate employees confirmed.
However, Caryn S. Kaufman, Ascension’s director of communications, sent the following statement: “As a matter of policy, Ascension abides by the ethical and religious directives for Catholic health care services and does not provide direct sterilizations.”
It’s a new policy that is controversial, as some do not believe that religious affiliation should affect the care a woman receives or is entitled to.
“A hospital provider restricting health care options based on institutional religious and ideological doctrines is unacceptable and lowers the standard of care women are able to receive in their communities,” said Iris Riis, a spokeswoman for Planned Parenthood of Wisconsin.
“This is especially concerning in Wisconsin, where many counties already lack adequate obstetric providers. Now, women have one less option to seek the full range of obstetric and reproductive care locally.”
The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists said it is concerned about the growing number of U.S. health care systems and hospitals that limit the scope of reproductive health care services they provide.
“Women should have access to scientifically based health care,” an ACOG position statement on the restrictions to comprehensive reproductive health care states. “Prohibitions on essential care that are based on religious or other non-scientific grounds can jeopardize women’s health and safety.”
Separate facilities, policies
Staff members in Racine — who asked not to be named — said because the policy in Racine is just rolling out, it is unclear exactly what options patients will have. Staffers said doctors could potentially gain privileges at other facilities to perform the procedure if patients wanted it performed.
The procedure, however, could not be performed at the same time as a cesarean section in the hospital after the birth of a child, a time many women elect to have the procedure done.
And while separate Ascension facilities already have tubal ligation policies in place, the policies vary slightly.
The Ascension hospital in Franklin, just north of the Racine County line at 10101 S. 27th St., does not deliver babies. Their doctors deliver at Ascension branches at St. Francis Hospital, 3237 S. 16th St., Milwaukee, or St. Joseph’s Hospital, 5000 W. Chambers St., Milwaukee.
According to a nurse at the Franklin campus, only one doctor there will perform tubal ligations and patients must go to a non-Ascension facility to have the procedure done. The nurse also said patients have to go through a special procedure committee to have the procedure performed.
Ascension St. Francis Hospital also has a policy in which patients wanting a tubal ligation must fill out a form that is reviewed by an ethics committee to determine if the patient is eligible. A hospital representative said this is not new policy. The policy was enacted before Ascension acquired St. Francis. The representative also said some doctors will do procedures at a surgery center.
At the St. Joseph campus, some doctors do still perform tubal procedures, but the decision must go to a board for approval.
Other area non-Ascension hospitals do not plan to discontinue offering tubal ligation.
Staff at Aurora Memorial Hospital of Burlington, 252 McHenry St., said they have no plans to stop performing the procedure on patients, and St. Catherine’s Medical Center, 9555 76 St. in Pleasant Prairie, which was founded as a Catholic hospital but is now part of Froedtert and the Medical College of Wisconsin, also performs tubal ligations.
While Ascension’s policies on getting tubes tied are changing, the policies are not changing for vasectomies, a permanent form of birth control for males in which the small tubes that carry sperm are cut so sperm cannot leave the body.
A receptionist in urology at All Saints said the hospital was still scheduling vasectomy appointments through this summer and did not know of any upcoming change in policy about the procedure.
Other local hospitals, including Aurora Memorial Hospital of Burlington and St. Catherine’s, do not perform vasectomies, not due to beliefs, but because they do not have doctors in the offices to perform them.
Kaufman declined to provide any comment on why All Saints is discontinuing tubal ligations, but so far is not scheduled to stop doing vasectomies.
According to Dottie-Kay Bowersox, the public health administrator for the city’s Public Health Department, about 700,000 tubal ligations are performed nationally.
But Bowersox, who did not know about Ascension All Saints’ policy change until she spoke with The Journal Times, said that without knowing exact numbers on tubal ligations performed in the city, she is unable to comment on how Ascension’s decision is going to directly impact area residents.
“If you are resident of Racine, there are no other options,” Bowersox said. “It’s an interesting perspective, but at the same point, it’s minimizing comprehensive coverage for individuals who may not have a lot of options.”
Planned Parenthood, which has an office at 834 S. Main St., said as a result of Ascension All Saints’ decision, they could likely see an increase in patients seeking other options for birth control, like long-acting reversible contraception.
“A woman should be able to make decisions about what’s best for her health in consultation with her family, her doctor, and her own faith — not the religious doctrine of the hospital where she’s seeking care,” Riis said.
Riis said Planned Parenthood will continue to work with their patients to find the birth control methods that work best for them, based on their individual health and personal needs.
The Journal Times contacted the Archdiocese of Milwaukee for comment but did not receive a response.
“A woman should be able to make decisions about what’s best for her health in consultation with her family, her doctor, and her own faith — not the religious doctrine of the hospital where she’s seeking care.” Iris Riis, a spokeswoman for Planned Parenthood of Wisconsin