'Religious refusal' law can possibly limit reproductive care

Amanda Aguilar Image
Wednesday, July 6, 2022
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Abortion is still legal in California, even after the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade. However, there's a new concern coming to light.

FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN) -- Abortion is still legal in California, even after the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade almost two weeks ago.

However, there's a new concern coming to light.

"I think patients have this notion that California has kind of a green light -- no problems, we're safe, we live here," explained Dr. Carolina Sueldo. "For the most part, I would say that that's true. So that's not a wrong thought process, but there are some limitations."

Sueldo, a fertility specialist and obstetrician, said access to reproductive healthcare -- such as abortion, contraceptives or in vitro fertilization (IVF) -- can be limited by so-called "religious refusal" or "conscience protection" laws.

They were expanded in 2019 by the Trump Administration.

"Federally-listed providers do not have to provide health care services that they believe are immoral," said Kevin Little, an attorney.

This means -- if a woman is looking to terminate a pregnancy, or maybe she's interested in starting birth control, it's not guaranteed she'll get that care, depending on the provider.

Here in the Valley, there are three faith-based medical centers - Adventist Health, Saint Agnes and Mercy Medical Center.

Action News reached out to each for comment on a patient's access to reproductive healthcare.

Adventist declined to comment.

Saint Agnes sent a statement saying: "As a member of Trinity Health, Saint Agnes Health believes that all life is sacred including the lives of pregnant women and unborn children. Trinity Health does not allow elective abortions. However, our hospitals will treat life-threatening complications in pregnancy and will save the life of the mother even when it may result in the unintended death of the unborn child. These are difficult and painful medical decisions that our providers strive to handle with compassion for both mother and child."

Action News hasn't heard back from Mercy Medical.

In addition, Dr. Sueldo noted those with federal health insurance could also be at risk.

"Because it's federally qualified, there is limitations as to certain medications, specifically regarding abortion, that cannot be obtained," she explained.

With reproductive rights on the line, Dr. Sueldo encourages women to stay proactive by having conversations with their provider about where they stand and what options are available to them.