Debra Stulberg

Debra Stulberg

Associate Professor of Family Medicine and Director, Reproductive Health Outcomes and Disparities Research Group, University of Chicago
Co-Director, Research Consortium on Religious Healthcare Institutions

Connect with Debra

About Debra

Stulberg is a family physician and health services researcher with a clinical and research focus on improving reproductive health among low-income communities and women of color in the United States. Her research covers three specific topics: 1) the impact of religious healthcare institutions (such as Catholic hospitals) on reproductive health care; 2) the epidemiology and possible causes of racial and economic disparities in pregnancy complications (especially ectopic pregnancy); and 3) how to improve the provision of comprehensive reproductive health services in primary care, especially in community health centers. She is the president and a founding board member of the Midwest Access Project, a non-profit organization dedicated to improving reproductive health access by training frontline healthcare providers. She was previously on the board of Medical Students for Choice and have worked closely with other reproductive health and advocacy organizations including MergerWatch, Physicians for Reproductive Choice and Health, and Provide. She also works with the ACLU of Illinois to assist with advocacy efforts locally and in the surrounding region. She has testified in the Illinois state legislature and served as an expert witness on challenges to two state laws restricting abortion access.

In the News

Debra Stulberg's research on hospital systems discussed by Kristen Thometz, "Report: Hospitals’ Religious Affiliations Impact Access to Reproductive Care," WTTW, August 9, 2018.
Guest to discuss Balancing Health Care Workers Rights with Reproductive Rights on Chicago Tonight, Debra Stulberg, January 23, 2018.
Debra Stulberg quoted on abortion care, "Doctors at Catholic Hospitals May be Unable to Refer Women for Services" Fox News, August 17, 2016.
Debra Stulberg quoted on tubal ligation by Rachel Bertsche, "Mom Denied Procedure during C-Section Sparks Campaign to Change Laws" Yahoo, July 31, 2015.
Debra Stulberg quoted on religious policies for patient care by Manya Brachear Pashman, "Bill Would Make Catholic Hospitals Tell Patients about Options Elsewhere" Chicago Tribune, April 17, 2015.
Debra Stulberg quoted on tubal ligations in Catholic hospitals by Patricia Miller, "‘A Risk of Harm’: Catholic Hospitals’ Ban on Tube-Tying" The Atlantic, January 2, 2015.
Guest to discuss Catholic hospitals on NPR's The Diane Rehm Show, Debra Stulberg, December 4, 2013.
Guest to discuss Catholic hospitals and health disparities on Melissa Harris Perry, Debra Stulberg, November 9, 2013.


"Religious Hospital Policies on Reproductive Care: What Do Patients Want to Know?" (with Lori Freedman, Luciana Hebert, and Molly Battistelli). 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.

"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).

"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.