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Austin Cline

Catholic Church: Hospitals Must Let Women Die

By January 4, 2011

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St. Joseph's Hospital and Medical Center was a Catholic hospital in Phoenix, Arizona. This "Catholic" status is "past tense" because the Phoenix Diocese stripped the hospital of its Catholic affiliation as punishment for a 2009 abortion performed there. Bishop Thomas Olmsted says that the abortion violated Catholic ethical guidelines which all Catholic hospitals must abide by.

The facts of the case are that the if the 11-week pregnancy hadn't been terminated, both mother and fetus would have died. The hospital made the decision to abort on the basis that the procedure was done to save the mother's life, not to terminate the pregnancy. So according to Thomas Olmstead, it's a violation of Catholic ethical guidelines to prevent pregnant women from dying if the only way to save them is to abort the pregnancy.

Linda Hunt, president of St. Joseph's, said doctors performed a necessary procedure on a patient who was getting worse by the minute and was in imminent danger of death.

"If we are presented with a situation in which a pregnancy threatens a woman's life, our first priority is to save both patients. If that is not possible, we will always save the life we can save, and that is what we did in this case," Hunt said. "Morally, ethically, and legally, we simply cannot stand by and let someone die whose life we might be able to save." ...

The woman who underwent the procedure is in her 20s and had a history of abnormally high blood pressure when she learned of her pregnancy. After she was admitted to the hospital with worsening symptoms, doctors determined her risk of death was nearly 100 percent.

The hospital's ethics team concluded the pregnancy could be ended under the church's ethical directives because "the goal was not to end the pregnancy but save the mother's life," the hospital said.

Source: The Seattle Times

Clearly, "saving the life we can" is not Catholic policy if that means a fetus dies but a woman lives. Women simply have no value next to a fetus in Catholic theology, right? It seems obvious that if there were any case that would fall under the Catholic "guidelines" for when an abortion is permitted, this is it. By rejecting the reasoning of the hospital, Thomas Olmstead is effectively announcing that the exception is null and void. It doesn't matter if the woman will die and it doesn't matter if the fetus can't be saved: aborting the pregnancy to save the woman's life is never, ever licit.

Olmsted's announcement came after months of talks between the Diocese, the hospital and the hospital's parent company, Catholic Healthcare West.

Dr. Charles Alfano, chief medical officer at the hospital and an obstetrician there, said Olmsted was asking the impossible from the hospital.

"Specifically the fact that he requested we admit the procedure performed was an abortion and that it was a violation of the ethical and religious directives and that we would not perform such a procedure in the future," he said. "We could not agree to that. We acted appropriately."

Olmsted said the talks eroded his confidence about St. Joseph's and Catholic Healthcare West's commitment to the church's ethical and religious directives. "They have not addressed in an adequate manner the scandal caused by the abortion," he said.

Because for Catholic theologians and clerics, it's such a scandal when women actually live, never mind live autonomously and freely. I wonder if Thomas Olmstead prays every night for God to remove the scourge of womanhood from the planet and regularly wonders why God saw fit to create women at all. Life for clerics like him would be so much better if only men existed because men are so much better than women. But not in a gay way, you understand.

January 4, 2011 at 5:16 pm
(1) Blunderov says:

I suppose they must fear the thin end of the wedge: that if one abortion is permitted, then many others will be likewise justified. And I suppose that their jesuitical argument would be that if one death of one woman prevents the deaths of other detuses in the future then it will be to the greater good.

What disturbs me most is that the Catholic Church, by using the legendary treasure that it has stored up on Earth, is corrupting the practice of medicine in the interests of the Catholic non medical agenda. Effectively the Catholics are subverting the division of Church and state by this means.

There oughta be a law…..

January 4, 2011 at 9:24 pm
(2) John Thomson says:

Yet people wonder why atheists care about religion.Could it be any clearer than this?The bishop is a disgrace to humanity.I wish there was a hell where he could rot.

January 7, 2011 at 4:29 pm
(3) Ray says:

If the hospital is still there and helping the sick, who cares if it is a Catholic hospital?

At a regular hospital, they administer antibiotics to cure an infection. At a Catholic hospital, I assume they don’t administer medicine, but try to cast out the demons they think are in you.

In the middle ages, that is what they preached. And they murdered thousands who they believed were demonized.
If the Catholic leaders were so close to a god and he told them demons caused disease, they are not allowed to ever change their positions. But they have, to avoid ridicule, and this is the rub. Once they change one position, no one ever should believe anything they preach, and proves they no nothing about a god.

The point of science is to remove the heavy mantle of ignorance from the shoulders of humanity. The point of religion is to keep the mantle of ignorance firmly in place.

January 7, 2011 at 7:01 pm
(4) Steve Gray says:

Try asking a Catholic official what the reasons are for their psychotic anti-sexuality. You will get the biggest load of evasive, incoherent bafflegab that you have ever heard. Probably the Pope wishes that the Church never got involved with the sex issue. It will cause them many well-deserved problems.

January 7, 2011 at 7:09 pm
(5) Bob says:

I think you misunderstand the motives of the Catholic Church in this case. Their thinking goes like this. The mother was baptised as a baby so will enter heaven if she dies. The baby has a soul but has not been baptised so cannot enter heaven. If the baby is allowed to be born or even removed from the womb alive it can be baptised so go to heaven. An abortion to save the mother leaves one soul unable to enter heaven saving the baby’s soul at the expense of the mother saves two souls.

I find Catholic Church spokesmen often unwilling to explain publicly their real motives for their principles. I would love to be there when a church dignitary tells an anxious husband the hospital must allow his wife to die.

January 8, 2011 at 12:06 am
(6) Emily says:

Female humans are just infant factories in Catholocism if its ‘core’ principles are followed, no matter how you soften the parts you can. The diocese is able to follow this inhuman code of ‘living’ because he’s removed from real, breathing, living humanity (also, he’s male, so he’s not exactly in the line of fire).

Its all just an example of creating a “ruling/law-enforcing group/class” which you then allow to isolate/seclude itself from the people it is attempting to rule (generally with the intent to become ‘more pure in deed/thought/action/etc’). And that sorta crap shows up everywhere there is a group of people given power of some sort over some other people.

Its not unique, its just especially disgusting in this case.

May 6, 2011 at 3:36 am
(7) momontherun says:

If popes or priests got pregnant – abortion would be a sacrament!
Women are just the “orifices” for producing more Catholics, no wonder they have no rights to self determination in the Catholic run hospitals! They have no value if they are not producing more followers of doctrine…

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