About the Report
The Southern Hospitals Report: Faith, Culture, and Abortion Bans in the U.S. South presents new research that hospitals across the region strictly regulate the provision of abortion, leading to delays and denials of care for patients facing severe pregnancy complications. The result of a two-year investigation including interviews with doctors, hospital administrators, advocates, researchers, and faith leaders, the report contains four key findings.
Strict limits on abortion care are ubiquitous at Baptist hospitals in the South and are common at other Protestant-affiliated facilities. While all health systems in theory allow abortion when necessary to save the life of a patient, how this exception is interpreted and applied in practice varies widely, resulting in patients being transferred to other facilities or denied care during medical emergencies;
While Protestant hospitals are typically no longer owned by religious institutions, they are not religious “in name only,” as some advocates and doctors initially suggested to us. Rather, these systems have retained important connections to their founding denominations, typically through rules allowing religious groups to nominate or approve members of their boards of trustees;
Abortion bans have also been instated at many public hospitals in the South, due to a variety of factors including legal prohibitions, anti-choice boards or administrators, fear of losing public or private funding, or community pressure;
Many hospitals use termination of pregnancy committees or boards to evaluate patients and determine whether a doctor can perform a medically indicated abortion in the facility. Some committees at religious health systems include faith leaders. Such committees were common in the pre-Roe era.
The report contains numerous first-hand accounts from doctors of the impact of abortion restrictions on patients, including those with serious underlying health conditions such as cancer, those whose water breaks prior to fetal viability, and those with lethal fetal anomalies including acrania. The Southern Hospitals Report concludes with recommendations on what policymakers, doctors, advocates, and patients can do to help mitigate the harms of hospital abortion bans.