Research Consortium on Religious Healthcare Institutions

The Research Consortium on Religious Healthcare Institutions is an innovative program designed to address the growing impact of religiously sponsored healthcare. In our research thus far, we have identified the prevalence and predictors of physician conflict with religious hospitals and described qualitative themes on religious directives interfering with patient autonomy and leading to unsafe medical practices in specific circumstances. Our work has been cited in court cases challenging abortion restrictions and reported widely in the media, but there remain many unanswered questions. Advocates in the field need new research in order to advance public policy towards health care that respects patients' autonomy and prioritizes their well-being over institutional adherence to religious doctrine. Using a combination of online and live resources, the Consortium will organize and facilitate disparate research efforts, foster academic interest, and connect researchers to policy advocates. By training and supporting researches to collaborate across institutions and engage with advocates and the public, we will delve deeper into the issues of religious healthcare and play a substantial role in improving the healthcare of all patients and communities affected by religious healthcare policies. As leasers in this field, we have cultivated relationships with fellow researchers throughout the country as well as key advocates, and we need this Consortium in order to catalyze new research and move the political dialogue further.

Through this program, we aim to:

  1. Cultivate a community of researchers, build research capacity, and foster rigorous inquiry about religiously affiliated healthcare institutions
  2. Create an infrastructure for researchers and advocates to connect with one another, so that respectively they can better conduct and utilize studies addressing key pieces of missing research to inform the public discourse and advance evidence-based policy.


Lori Freedman, PhD

Lori Freedman, PhD, is a sociologist at ANSIRH and The Bixby Center for Global Reproduction Health at the University of California, San Francisco. She is Co-Director of the Research Consortium on Religious Healthcare Institutions. Her research investigates the ways in which reproductive health is shaped by our social structure, medical culture, and abortion politics, with a focus on the impact of religious healthcare ownership.

Debra Stulberg, MD, MAPP

Debra Stulberg, MD, MAPP, is Assistant Professor of Family Medicine at the University of Chicago, with secondary appointments in Obstetrics & Gynecology at the MacLean Center for Clinical Medical Ethics. She is Co-Director of the Research Consortium on Religious Healthcare Institutions. Her clinical and research focus is on racial and socioeconomic disparities in reproductive health care and the impact of religious sponsorship on patient care. She is also a founding Board member of the Midwest Access Project.


Patient Awareness of Religious Restriction in Catholic Healthcare (PAARCH)

The purpose of this study to survey a nationally representative sample of women ages 18-45 and ask them about their experiences and awareness during their care at a Catholic hospital.


Maclean Center Ethics Seminars: Reproductive Ethics
"Women's Perspectives on Receiving Care in Religiously Affiliated Institutions"
Lori Fredeman, PhD

Rewire: CHOICE/LESS Podcast, Episode 9
"Dr. Debra Stulberg: Did you hear we're going to be working for the Pope?"

American Civil Liberties Union of Illinois
"Their Hands are Tied: Dr. Debra Stulberg on Religious Restrictions on the Provision of Health Care"

Innovating Education in Reproductive Health
"Explained: Faith-Based Hospitals" - Short Series Version & Infographic

Innovating Education in Reproductive Health
"Explained: Faith-Based Hospitals" - Extended Lecture Version

  • Freedman, L. R., & Stulberg, D. B. (2013). Conflicts in care for obstetric complications in Catholic hospitals. AJOB Primary Research, 4(4), 1-10.
  • Stulberg, D. B., Hoffman, Y., Dahlquist, I. H., & Freedman, L. R. (2014). Tubal ligation in Catholic hospitals: a qualitative study of ob-gyns' experiences. Contraception, 90(4), 422-428.
  • Stulberg, D. B., Jackson, R. A., & Freedman, L. R. (2016). Referrals for Services Prohibited In Catholic Health Care Facilities. Perspectives on Sexual and Reproductive Health.
  • Freedman, Lori R., & Stulberg, D. B. (2016.) The Research Consortium on Religious Healthcare Institutions: studying the impact of religious restrictions on women's reproductive health. Contraception, 94(1), 6-10.
  • Kimport, K., Weitz, T. A., & Freedman, L. (2016). The Stratified Legitimacy of Abortions. J Health Soc Behav.
  • Homaifar, N., Freedman, L., & French, V. (2017). "She's on her own": a thematic analysis of clinicians' comments on abortion referral. Contraception.

**currently in APA format