No excuse for improper care

local wisconsin hospitals justify lack of emergency contraceptive care for sexual assault victims due to religious affiliation

More stories from Nicole Bellford


Photo by submitted

St. Mary’s hospital failed to provide emergency contraceptives to three sexual assault victims between June and December of 2014, justifying the act with their religious affiliation.

Regardless of circumstance, everyone deserves the right to know and assess all possible legal options in difficult situations. However, according to the Wisconsin State Journal (WSJ), St. Mary’s hospital in Madison, as well as 21 additional local hospitals, robbed several patients of this right.

The article says St. Mary’s faced a “hefty” fine of $7,500 after it was discovered that the hospital failed to inform three sexual assault patients between June and December of 2014 about emergency contraception or make it available to them. This is a direct violation of a 2008 law that states “emergency rooms must provide information about emergency contraceptives to victims of sexual assault, dispense the drugs at their request, and train staff about the drugs.”

The issue was discovered during state inspection of the hospital, according to WSJ. The ER director at St. Mary’s attempted to justify their non-compliance with the law, stating the hospital’s religious affiliation prevented them from obeying emergency contraceptive guidelines.

Such an absurd justification was utilized by several other “religiously affiliated”  local hospitals that committed similar errors, according to WSJ.

I cannot believe, in this day and age, this is still a conversation that needs to be had. The United States government has utilized the concept “separation of church and state” for literally hundreds of years, yet people still seem to forget such an idea exists when it becomes an inconvenience for their own personal agendas.

Not to mention, these people were sexual assault survivors. They did not willingly participate in sexual intercourse with another human. Their bodies were taken advantage of, and the victims were (and are) likely experiencing far more than the typical confusion that comes along with an unexpected pregnancy.

They were invaded, and they are likely facing mental trauma that has the potential to be permanently damaging. The last thing these people need is to be deceived.

This occurrence brings to light the importance of enforcing law. It is one thing to develop and pass a law, but if no one ensures the law is enforced, how can we expect people to comply with it?

The fact that this problem was not caught for nearly six months is completely unacceptable. While I am glad the issue was eventually taken care of in some way, it was not soon enough. This should be something that is called out on the spot.

Especially in the case of pregnancy, timing is everything. It can’t wait. There is no available information on what happened to these assault victims, but it breaks my heart to think they were not provided with the care they deserved immediately following their trauma.

The hospital that committed this act did not face consequences until nearly half a year later, which is likely what allowed such an issue to occur more than once.

While some may look at this circumstance and claim they are glad it was eventually discovered, I have to disagree. We shouldn’t have to worry about taking care of these kinds of problems, because we shouldn’t have them in the first place.  

For the sake of assault victims, as well as anyone in a troubling circumstance regarding pregnancy for that matter, I hope “religious affiliation” never prevents anyone from receiving the information and care they deserve in the future.