Kreft says her clinic manager at one point told her the clinic's patient satisfaction scores could go down if she didn't prescribe contraception. Eventually, the clinic prohibited Kreft from seeing any female patient of childbearing age- explicitly because of her beliefs about contraception.
One of the last patients Kreft saw was a young woman whom she had seen previously for an issue unrelated to family planning or women's health. But at the end of the visit, she asked Kreft for emergency contraception.
Kreft tried to listen compassionately, but told the patient that she could not prescribe or refer for emergency contraception, citing Providence's own policies on the matter.
However, when Kreft stepped out of the room, she realized that another healthcare provider had stepped in and was prescribing the patient emergency contraception.
A few weeks later, the regional medical director called Kreft in for a meeting and told Kreft that her actions had traumatized the patient, and that Kreft had "done the patient harm" and thus had broken the Hippocratic Oath.
"Those are big, significant claims to make about a healthcare provider. And here I was operating out of love and care for this woman, care for her from a medical and spiritual standpoint," Kreft said.
"The patient was experiencing trauma, but it was from the situation she was in."
Later on, Kreft approached the clinic and asked if they would allow her to take a course in Natural Family Planning for her continuing education requirement, and they refused because it was "not relevant" to her job.
The ERDs state that Catholic healthcare organizations have to provide NFP training as an alternative to hormonal contraception. Kreft said she was not aware of anyone at the clinic being trained in NFP.
Eventually, the clinic's leadership and HR informed Kreft that she had to sign a performance expectation document, stating that if a patient requests a service that she herself does not provide, Kreft would be obliged to refer the patient to another Providence healthcare provider.
This would involve Kreft referring for services that she in her medical judgement saw as a detriment to the patient, such as tubal ligations and abortions.
Kreft says she wrote to the health system leadership, reminding them of their Catholic identity and asking why there was such a disconnect between the ERDs and the hospital's practices. She says she never received a response to her questions regarding the ERDs.
In October 2019, she was given a 90-day notice of termination because she would not sign the form.
Through mediation facilitated by the Thomas More Society, a Catholic law firm, Kreft agreed not to sue Providence, and was no longer employed in early 2020.
Her goal in settling, she says, was to be able to tell her story freely- something litigation may not have allowed her to do- and be a source of support for other medical professionals who have similar objections.
Kreft also filed a complaint with the Office of Civil Rights at the Department of Health and Human Services, which works with employers to come up with a corrective action plan to remedy civil rights violations, and could even pull federal funding if violations continue.
She says there are currently no major updates on that complaint; the ball is currently in the HHS' court.
Providence Medical Group did not respond to CNA's request for comment.
Kreft says by practicing pro-life healthcare, she had wanted to be "one small light" in her clinic, but that was "not tolerated or permitted in the organization at all."
"I expected [opposition] in a secular hospital, where my training was, but the fact that it's occurring within Providence is scandalous. And it's confusing to patients and their loved ones."
She recommended that any healthcare professional facing an ethical dilemma contact the NCBC, as they can help to translate and apply the Church's teachings to real-life situations.
Zalot recommended that all Catholic healthcare workers familiarize themselves with the conscience protections in place at the hospital or clinic where they work, and if necessary seek legal representation.
Zalot said the NCBC is aware of at least one physician within the Providence Health System signing off on assisted suicides.
In another recent example, Zalot said he received a call from a healthcare worker at a different Catholic healthcare system who was observing gender-reassignment surgery taking place in their hospitals.
If workers or patients observe Catholic hospitals doing things contrary to the ERDs, they should contact their diocese, Zalot advised. The NCBC can, at the invitation of a local bishop, perform an "audit" of a hospital's Catholicity and present the bishop with recommendations, he said.
Kreft is, in some ways, still reeling after being fired six months into her first medical job.
She's trying to be an advocate for others who may be in a situation similar to hers, and hopes to encourage Catholic hospitals to choose to reform, and provide "the life-affirming healthcare that they were founded to provide."
"There are probably other healthcare providers, even within Providence, that have experienced similar situations. But I imagine Providence is not the only Catholic healthcare system in the country that struggles with this."
Jonah McKeown is a staff writer and podcast producer for Catholic News Agency. He holds a Master’s Degree from the University of Missouri School of Journalism and has worked as a writer, as a producer for public radio, and as a videographer. He is based in St. Louis.