MW Staff

Lois Uttley, MPP, Director

Ms. Uttley has more than 30 years professional experience, including having served as President of the Public Health Association of NYC; Director of Public Affairs at the New York State Department of Health; Vice President of Family Planning Advocates of NYS and, earlier, as Executive Editor for City and State Coverage at the Albany Times Union newspaper. She earned a Master’s in Public Affairs and Policy from the Rockefeller College of Public Affairs and Policy, University at Albany, and was a National Urban Fellow. She is a member of the steering committee of Health Care for All New York (HCFANY).

Christine Khaikin, JD,           Project Manager

Ms. Khaikin is the Project Manager for the MergerWatch Project. She coordinates advocacy campaigns in communities facing the loss of reproductive health services due to the introduction of religious restrictions in health care settings such as local hospitals, clinics, health plans and pharmacies. Prior to joining MergerWatch, Ms. Khaikin completed a post-graduate fellowship in advocacy and policy with the Ms. Foundation for Women, focusing on health care access for immigrant women. She is a graduate of Brooklyn Law School, where she interned with Physicians for Reproductive Choice and National Advocates for Pregnant Women and was chair of the Legal Association for Women. She holds a Bachelor of Arts from Emerson College.

  • Almost a third of Catholic hospitals are located in rural areas.
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Site design and graphics: Brucie Rosch

Portions of banner photos: M. Marshall

MergerWatch in the News

ProPublica November 11, 2014: Catholic Bishops Vote to Revise Rules for Health Care Partnerships

Kaiser Health News September 17, 2014: Rise Of Catholic Insurance Plans Raises Questions About Contraceptive Coverage

Seattle Magazine June 2014: Will Washington's Many Catholic Hospitals Affect Your Health Care?

Modern Healthcare April 12, 2014: The Turnaround of Dignity Health

RH Reality Check April 9, 2014: WA Policy Disclosures Provide Little Clarity on Hospital Access to Reproductive Health Care

The Nation Blog March 31, 2014: Doctors at OK Hospital Told They Can No Longer Prescribe Birth Control

Courier Journal March 1, 2014: KentuckyOne Layoffs Total 500

Courier Journal January 30, 2014: KentuckyOne Health Struggles with $218 Million Deficit

Melissa Harris-Perry/MSNBC December 19, 2013: What Catholic Hospital Expansion Means for Women

Modern Healthcare December 19, 2013: Growth of Catholic Systems Threatens Women's Health Care Access, Report Says

Mother Jones December 18, 2013: Charts: Catholic Hospitals Don't Do Much For Poor

Pro-Publica December 18, 2013: The Growth of Catholic Hospitals, By the Numbers

Pro-Publica November 14, 2013: At CO Catholic Hospital, A Dispute Over What A Doctor Can Say - And Do

Melissa Harris-Perry Show/MSNBC November 9, 2013: Communities Fight for Control of Hospitals

Melissa Harris-Perry Show/MSNBC November 9, 2013 (VIDEO): Is Catholicism Harming Hospital Policy?

Mother Jones Nov/Dec 2013 Issue: Do Bishops Run Your Hospital?

Pro Publica October 17, 2013: Catholic Hospitals Grow, And With Them Questions of Care

Central Kitsap Reporter August 7, 2013: Harrison Affiliation to Move Forward

Central Kitsap Reporter July 19, 2013: Harrison Affiliation Could Take More Time

Central Kitsap Reporter July 6, 2013: Harrison Awaits Word on Affiliation

Kitsap Sun July 2, 2013: Governor Orders Overhaul of Hospital Affiliation Process

Kitsap Sun June 22, 2013: Harrison Affiliation Plan Filed with State

Associated Press June 21, 2013: Fewer Abortions with Hospital Consolidations

LA Times June 20, 2013: Hoag Hospital's Abortion Ban Linked to New Catholic Partner

Austin American-Statesman May 22, 2013: Central Health Questioned About Women's Health Care Services

New York Times May 12, 2013: Hospital Mergers Reset Abortion-Access Battle

Kitsap Sun May 11, 2013: Harrison-Franciscan Affiliation Comes Amid Wave of Religious-Secular Partnerships

Houston Chronicle April 28, 2013: Concerns Mounting Over Catholic Acquisition of St. Luke's

Seattle Times April 27, 2013: Hospitals' Proposed Affiliation with Catholic Systems Opposed

National Public Radio April 25, 2013: Family Doctors Consider Dropping Birth Control Training Rule

Arkansas Times' Blog March 26, 2013: Nat'l Groups Raise Questions About UAMS-St. Vincent Combine

RH Reality Check March 25, 2013: Why I Refuse to Be Taken to a Catholic Hospital-& Why Other Women Should Too

The Stranger February 20, 2013: Faith Healers: Catholic Hospital Care in Washington State

Skagit Valley Herald February 3, 2013: Public/Catholic Alliance Raises Concerns about Church and State Separation

The Courier-Journal December 12, 2012: University of Louisville Partnership with Catholic-based Health Firm Raises Academic Concerns

The Bangor Daily News December 11, 2012: Sale of Catholic Hospital in Portland Raises Questions About Patient Care

The American-Statesman December 8, 2012: Critics Wary of Catholic Teaching Hospital for New University of Texas Medical School

The Courier-Journal November 18, 2012: Doubts Linger over University Hospital Partnership's Impact on Patient Care

The Courier-Journal September 21, 2012: University Hospital Partner Decision Postponed

The Hartford Courant September 5, 2012: Carve-Out Proposal Rejected, Waterbury Merger in Jeopardy

Republican American September 5, 2012: Women's Groups Oppose Carve-Out Proposal in Waterbury, CT

RH Reality Check July 26, 2012: Opposing Religious Coercion in Health Care: The Defeat of the Abington Hospital Merger in PA

The Philadelphia Inquirer July12, 2012: 150 Abington Physicians Decry Plan to Stop Abortions

WHYY's Newsworks July 11, 2012: Abington-Holy Redeemer Proposal Raises Issues of Lost Services, Culture Clash

The Philadelphia Inquirer July 8, 2012: Anger at Abington Hospital

The Philadelphia Inquirer July 7, 2012: Debate Grows on Abington Health-Holy Redeemer Alliance

Women's Enews July 5, 2012: Hospital Deal Could Send Tube-Tying Out of Town

The Hartford Courant June 22, 2012: Women's Health Care Questions Slow Merger of Waterbury, St. Mary's Hospitals

The Nation Magazine June 20, 2012: Catholic Health Association Pulls Support From Contraception Mandate

Republican American June 12, 2012: Hospital Merger Heats Up, Could Set National Precedent

The Hartford Courant June 2, 2012: Catholic Institutions Ignore Individuals' Rights

Republican American May 21, 2012: Hospitals' Merger Would Ban Women's Surgery

Times Herald-Record March 20, 2012: Service Gap at Kingston Reproductive Services Clinic

The New York Times February 29, 2012: Women's Health Care at Risk

The Observer-Dispatch February 26, 2012: When secular, Catholic hospitals merge, questions are raised

The Baltimore Sun February 26, 2012: St Joseph considers merger with non-Catholic hospital system

The New Republic February 22, 2012: Unholy Alliance: Catholic health care controversy goes beyond birth control

The Nation Magazine February 17, 2012: Employees Need Birth Control Mandate

WNYC's Brian Lehrer Show February 14, 2012: Contraception Coverage in NY State

Modern Healthcare Magazine January 28, 2012: Business Conversion

Kaiser Health News January 23, 2012: In Quest to Grow, Catholic Hospital System Pares Religious Ties

Courier Journal January 16, 2012: Without Merger, Visions for University Hospital's Future Contrast

Courier Journal December 17, 2011: Documents on Directives Don't Satisfy Merger Critics

US News & World Report Best Hospitals 2012 Edition: Supersized Medicine

Courier Journal November 6, 2011: Merger Mania: Louisville Case Part of U.S. Surge

Seattle Times October 20, 2011: Swedish Abortion Decision an Insult

Courier Journal October 16, 2011: Hospital Merger May Cut Benefits

Courier Journal October 17, 2011: Altered Catholic Rules Pose Problems

Courier Journal September 8, 2011: Church-State Separation Seen as Issue in Hospital Merger

Republican American August 26, 2011: Abortion Foes Will Oppose Merger

Inside Higher Education August 9, 2011: Church, State and a University Hospital

Courier Journal July 23, 2011:University Hospital Merger Stirs End-of-Life Care Fears

WFPL News July 22, 2011: "Hospital Within A Hospital" Possible Solution for Healthcare Merger Concerns

Courier Journal June 12, 2011: Will Louisville Hospital Merger Mean Lost Services?

Ms. Magazine Spring 2011:
Treatment Denied

Women's Health Daily Report April 12, 2011: AZ Residents Celebrate End of Hospital Merger

Arizona Daily Star March 31, 2011: AZ Hospital, Catholic Health System End Agreement

Church & State March 2011: Prescription for Disaster: Catholic Bishops, Church Hospitals and Your Health Care

Washington Post January 20, 2011: Religious hospitals' restrictions sparking conflict, scrutiny

Need Help in Your Community?

  1. Has your local hospital announced a merger or affiliation with a religiously-affiliated hospital that uses doctrine to restrict patients’ access to health services?
  2. Has a pharmacist refused to fill your prescription because of personal objections to contraception?
  3. Have you been denied medical care or information by a physician who cited religious or moral objections?

If you’ve been affected by religious restrictions when you tried to obtain health care, please let us know.
We may be able to help. 

send a secure email 

Or call us at 212.870.2010

MergerWatch respects the privacy of every individual. None of the personal information you give us will be given to any other organization or individual without your consent.

In medical care, the patient’s rights
must come first

Religious faith can be an important resource for some patients, providing guidance, hope or acceptance in the face of serious illness.

But medical care that is restricted by institutional religious doctrine or the provider’s moral beliefs can pose a significant threat to patients’ rights and access to care.

  • Pharmacists may refuse to fill prescriptions for contraceptives and other medicines they view as morally unacceptable.
  • Hospitals may ban treatment that conflicts with religious doctrine.
  • Employers and managed care plans may refuse to provide health insurance coverage for contraception, sterilization or abortion.
  • Physicians may refuse to provide fertility services to families they find morally unacceptable.
  • Politicians responding to religious conservatives may enact laws that make it difficult for patients to refuse end-of-life treatment.

MergerWatch is dedicated to the principle that health care should be guided by accurate medical information and the patient’s own religious or ethical beliefs. In medical decision-making, the patient’s rights must come first.

Tracey Brooks of New York State Family Planning Advocates talks about the history of MergerWatch.


Medical care that is based on religious doctrine or the provider’s moral beliefs represents a significant, though under-recognized, threat to patients’ rights and access to care at hospitals, clinics, managed care plans, pharmacies and even doctors’ offices across the nation. The mission of the MergerWatch project is to advocate for health care policies, practices and delivery systems which ensure that medical care is guided by scientifically-accurate, unbiased medical information and each patient’s own religious or ethical beliefs. We believe that the needs and rights of patients must come first in medical decision-making and in the design of health care delivery systems.


The MergerWatch Project was founded in 1996 at the Education Fund of Family Planning Advocates of New York State. The Project was created after a merger between religious and secular hospitals in Troy, NY, caused the loss of contraceptive services at an outpatient clinic that had been operated by the secular hospital. The merged entity had adopted the health care policies of the religiously-sponsored partner hospital, which included a ban on contraception.

MergerWatch was created to find ways of intervening to save key reproductive health services before religious/secular mergers were given government approval and finalized. Since its founding, MergerWatch has assisted grass roots coalitions fighting to protect services threatened by religious/secular hospital mergers in more than 100 communities located across the nation. We have a strong record of success in protecting patients’ rights and access to health care services.

The project has expanded to address a wide range of religiously-based restrictions on health care. Reflecting that expanded mission and its national reach, the MergerWatch Project moved in July of 2005 from Albany, NY, to New York City. The project became an affiliate of Community Catalyst, a national consumer health advocacy organization.