Oklahoma Hospital Bans Doctors From Prescribing Contraceptives

Birth Control

UPDATE: Following a popular backlash on social media, St. John Health System reversed its directive prohibiting prescription of contraceptives for birth control. The System now maintains the decision to prescribe will be left to individual doctors.


The Jane Phillips Medical Center in Bartlesville, Oklahoma has reportedly issued a directive to local doctors of gynecology and obstetrics forbidding them from prescribing all contraceptives to be used for birth control purposes. Most local doctors are affiliated with the Center, so the measure will have a significant impact for women in Bartlesville.

JMPC is part of the larger St. John Health System, which extends into Kansas and is controlled by Ascension Health. The company controls 113,000 facilities and is part of 150,000 associations with 1,500 other locations in 22 states and the District of Columbia. Ascension Health has published materials presenting itself as strongly anti-abortion, and opposed to any measure that causes the death of fetuses. While the company has always prohibited abortion, sterilization and contraceptives within the premises under their control, this new measure forces their policies upon most local practitioners in a city.

When contacted for comment, Cheena Pazzo, director of the St. John Health System Community and Physician Relations said that “consistent with all Catholic health care organizations, St. John Health System operates in accordance with the Ethical and Religious Directives for Catholic Health Families.”

While doctors may be able to prescribe contraceptives for reasons other than birth control, a Bartlesville resident spoke out anonymously against it:

“I have spoken to my doctor about my birth control options.. I was told that my physician has been instructed that they can no longer write prescriptions for birth control as birth control. This affects me because I take birth control as birth control. There are other ways to receive birth control, for example headaches, cramps, excessive bleeding — but I have none of those symptoms. I was given the impression that birth control for those reasons would be overlooked, but I have no desire to stretch the truth or fabricate a reason. This is between me and my physician. This is about MY health care. Why should we have to commit borderline insurance fraud because I want to maintain my health care?”

Another Bartlesville woman expressed indignation at the religious interference in personal health-care, but also felt it was an economic issue as Bartlesville women would be forced to go out of their city for care:

“I personally find it infuriating that restrictions on birth control, and especially IUDs, are being forced upon our doctors. My health care decisions should be up to me and not based on the religious beliefs of others.. I do not think a religiously affiliated hospital system is good for Bartlesville. We have one hospital and when that hospital refuses services that almost half the population wants, due to its religious beliefs, it forces money to leave Bartlesville. This is not just an issue of women’s health care rights but it is also an economic issue for our town. Refusing birth control doesn’t stop women from getting it, but it takes patients away from our local doctors and hands money directly to Owasso and Tulsa, money that should be staying here in Bartlesville.”

Photo Credits: Ceridwen

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