Debra Stulberg

Debra Stulberg

Associate Professor of Family Medicine, University of Chicago
Co-Director, Research Consortium on Religious Healthcare Institutions
Chapter Member: Chicagoland SSN
Areas of Expertise:

About Debra

Stulberg's research focuses on reproductive health service delivery in the United States. Overarching themes in Stulberg's writing include incorporating reproductive health in primary care, addressing racial and socioeconomic disparities in pregnancy outcomes, and understanding how religious healthcare institutions affect care delivery. She directs the Reproductive Health Outcomes and Disparities (RHOADs) Research Group and co-directs the Research Consortium on Religious Healthcare Institutions.

In the News

Research discussed by Kristen Thometz, in "Report: Hospitals’ Religious Affiliations Impact Access to Reproductive Care," WTTW, August 9, 2018.
Guest on Chicago Tonight, January 23, 2018.
Quoted by Rachel Bertsche in "Mom Denied Procedure during C-Section Sparks Campaign to Change Laws," Yahoo, July 31, 2015.
Quoted by Manya Brachear Pashman in "Bill Would Make Catholic Hospitals Tell Patients about Options Elsewhere," Chicago Tribune, April 17, 2015.
Quoted by Patricia Miller in "‘A Risk of Harm’: Catholic Hospitals’ Ban on Tube-Tying," The Atlantic, January 2, 2015.
Guest on NPR's The Diane Rehm Show, December 4, 2013.
Guest on Melissa Harris Perry, November 9, 2013.


"What You Don’t Know Can Hurt You: Patient and Provider Perspectives on Postpartum Contraceptive Care in Illinois Catholic Hospitals" (with Lori Freedman, Debra Stulberg, Zarina J. Wong, Lee Thompson, and Angel Boulware). Contraception 107 (2021): 62-67.

Examines hospital restrictions on postpartum contraception due to religious affiliation restrict access, cause unnecessary delays in care, and lead to misdiagnosis and marginalization of contraceptive care. Reviews that restrictions also cause moral distress to providers who balance career repercussions and professional integrity with patient needs.

"Beyond Hobby Lobby: Employer’s Responsibilities and Opportunities To Improve Network Access to Reproductive Healthcare for Employees" (with Debra Stulberg, Lori Freedman, Erin Wingo, Alexis Cacioppo, and Ashley McHugh). Contraception X 4 (2022).

Suggests large employers have leverage to improve access to reproductive health services and providers. Argues that large employers could pressure insurance carriers to address network gaps in access to care resulting from religious restrictions.

"“My Hands Are Tied”: Abortion Restrictions and Providers’ Experiences in Religious and Nonreligious Health Care Systems" (with Luciana Hebert, Debra Stulberg, and Yuan Liu). Perspectives on Sexual and Reproductive Health 52, no. 2 (2020): 107-115.

Presents that with pregnancy complications or seeking an abortion at Catholic and Protestant hospitals denials may be faced, delays encountered, and fewer treatment options may occur than they would at secular hospitals. Considers they may also experience financial obstacles and stigmatization as a result of restrictions.

"Religious Hospital Policies on Reproductive Care: What Do Patients Want to Know?" (with Lori Freedman, Luciana Hebert, and Debra Stulberg). American Journal of Obstetrics & Gynecology (2017).

Uses a nationally representative study of women of reproductive age to find that while 34.5% of women consider it important to know a hospital’s religious affiliation when seeking care, 80.7% consider it important to know a hospital’s religious restrictions on care. Additionally, a majority (two thirds) of women find religious restrictions on care during miscarriage management unacceptable.

"Ectopic Pregnancy Morbidity and Mortality in Low-Income Women, 2004-08" (with Loretta Cain, Irma Hasham Dahlquist, and and Diane S. Lauderdale). Human Reproduction 31, no. 3 (2016): 666-671.

Finds that among women in 14 states who receive Medicaid, those who have an ectopic pregnancy are significantly more likely to experience a serious short-term complication (such as blood transfusion, hysterectomy, sterilization, or prolonged hospitalization) if they are black, Hispanic, Asian, Native American, or Pacific Islander than if they are white. 

"Abortion Provision among Practicing Obstetrician-Gynecologists" (with Annie M Dude AM, Irma Dahlquist, and and Farr A Curlin). Obstetrics and Gynecology 188, no. 3 (2011): 609-614.

Evaluates from a nationally representative survey of ob-gyns practicing in the United States and finds that while 97% encounter patients seeking abortion, only 14% provide abortion themselves. Finds that abortion provision is less common in the South (8.2%) and Midwest (8.8%) compared to the Northeast (25.5%) and West (19.3%) regions. Discusses how women ob-gyns and those working in an urban area are more likely to be abortion providers.

"Tubal Ligation in Catholic Hospitals: A Qualitative Study of OB-GYNS’ Experiences" (with Yael Hoffman, Irma Hasham Dahquist, and and Lori R Freedman). Contraception 90, no. 4 (2014): 422-428.

Finds that Ob-gyns working in Catholic hospitals who were interviewed for this paper report facing barriers to providing tubal ligations for patients who want them, even when the patient is having a c-section and wants a simultaneous tubal ligation (so that denying the procedure means requiring the patient to undergo a second surgery and anesthesia), or even when a future pregnancy would pose a serious health risk to the patient. Discusses how these barriers were reported by some physicians to pose additional hardship for patients with Medicaid or other financial or insurance barriers to care.

"Religious Hospitals and Primary Care Physicians: Conflicts over Policies for Patient Care" (with Ryan E Lawrence, Jason Shattuck, and and Farr A Curlin). Journal of General Internal Medicine 25, no. 7 (2010): 725-730.

Evaluates in this nationally representative sample of primary care physicians practicing in the United States and finds that 43% had practiced in a religiously-affiliated hospital or practice, and of those, 19% had experienced conflict with the facility’s religious policies for patient care. 

"Obstetrician-Gynecologists, Religious Institutions, and Conflicts Regarding Patient-Care Policies" (with Annie M Dude, Irma Dahlquist, and and Farr A Curlin). American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology 207, no. 1 (2012): 73.e1-75.

Discusses how in this nationally representative survey of ob-gyns practicing in the United States, 52% of those who work in a Catholic facility report they have had conflict with their employer over its religious policies for patient care. This was significantly higher than at hospitals of any other religion (such as Protestant or Jewish hospitals).