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Catholic Hospitals' Treatment of Pregnancy Complications: Practices That Endanger Women's Lives Should Not be Below the Radar

If you have any social life whatsoever, eventually you will find yourself talking about what you do for a living.  My day job is making sure that women’s access to reproductive health care isn’t compromised by the religious beliefs of their hospitals and health care providers. If you don’t think this is great cocktail party fodder, you have different friends than I do.

There is compelling evidence that Catholic hospitals sometimes delay or deny treatment to women with certain pregnancy complications. Why? Because doctors can still detect a heartbeat, but we are talking about cases where there is no medical treatment that would allow these pregnancies to continue.  These women are experiencing what is called in the medical literature an “inevitable abortion.”  Ectopic pregnancies (those that grow in a fallopian tube) are also never viable.  The standard of care requires medical intervention to end these pregnancies because the patients are at risk for hemorrhaging, infection, or in the case of ectopic pregnancies, a tubal rupture that could be fatal. Regardless of where someone stands on the abortion issue, every person I’ve ever discussed this with has been absolutely appalled that this happens.

We are greatly encouraged that this issue has caught the attention of the Washington Post and the New York Times’ Nicholas Kristof .To put an end to these practices, NWLC is asking the Department of Health and Human Services to find that these practices violate federal laws that protect patients’ right to receive the standard of care, emergency care, and adequate information on their treatment options.  We urge you to share your story if you’ve been denied appropriate treatment of your pregnancy complications, to take the pledge to get informed, and to let others know about this issue.  We hope that these dangerous practices won’t be Below the Radar for much longer.


There is some misinformation

There is some misinformation ectopic pregnancy is not a tubal pregnancy. It can be, but they are not synonomous. An ectopic pregnancy is a non uterine pregnancy. There are women who have carried successful ectopic pregnancies. Also, for someone to say God cares about women more than a fetus is presumptuous. We were all fetuses once (a fetus inside of a human is a human who resides in the woman. To say that God cares more about that woman than a fetus means that at one point God did not care about that woman. And thats just for starters. No one is more or less important. We are all important regardless of our placement.

Chance for employment

I am sure there are a lot of medical staff and doctors who would be eager to replace those that choose to defect. Those hospitals can be purchased I'm sure and continue to function.

Let's think this through

Fellow feminists,

When dealing with an institution as tenacious as the Catholic Church, it is wise to approach things as one would a chess game, not looking just a move ahead, but several moves ahead, anticipating possible attacks and counterattacks.

For instance, let's suppose we are able to get legislation passed that would require Catholic hospitals to provide services such as abortion, sterilization, and others that they consider immoral and do not currently provide.

It's now the hospitals' move.

It is likely that some of those hospitals will follow the recent example of St. Joseph's Hospital and Medical Center in Phoenix, which defied its bishop and had the word "Catholic" stripped from its name.

But it is also likely that a good many of those hospitals, if faced with the decision to either go against their faith or close up shop, will choose the latter.

Now it's our move again -- and we have an opportunity to "take their queen," so to speak.

We can condemn the hospitals' closings -- which deprives not just women but whole communities of all manner of health care -- and blame the Catholic Church for digging its heels in and depriving these people of care. In effect, we can paint the Church as unconscionable for sticking to its conscience.

Oh, sure, the Church may fire back that it would not have had to close its hospitals if it had not been forced to provide services it objects to, but let's face it: There's enough anti-Catholic sentiment in the U.S. right now that few people would side with them.

So it seems like a win-win, right? Either the Catholic hospitals capitulate and starts providing the services, or they close their doors and face an unprecedented public outcry.

Ah, but before we declare checkmate, let us review the spoils of our victory.

In the case of hospitals that would close rather than provide the required services, not only has our legislative victory not led to the availability of abortion, sterilization, etc., but it has led to the loss of basic and emergency health care services for entire communities.

And although we can insist that it is the Catholic Church, and not us, who is responsible for that, the fact remains that the effect of such legislation could lead to a significant net loss in availability of health care services.

Now, I trust that most of you are utilitarian in your ethics, and that the practical consequences matter more than the principle -- in which case, a net loss in availability of health care services is not something that should be pursued.

But a warning to those of you who would put principle ahead of practical effects: You would, in essence, be proving the Church's position -- that certain principles must be upheld, no matter the consequences.

15,000 Little Girls

Guttamacher Institute reports 15,000 underdeveloped girls 10-13 years old are impregnated every year in the United States. More than half are not given emergency contraception or abortions causing permanent physical damage. Doctors and parents, such as those that helped pregnant 9 year old Rosita are excommunicated by the Catholic Church. More info and links to the Rosita documentary can be found at:

Sterilization and my Catholic hospital

When I was 40, I made the decision to have my tubes tied. The only hospital in my small rural town is a Catholic one, and would not allow sterilizations. Instead of having this surgical procedure done in a hospital, with anesthesia, I had to have it done in the local clinic, while I was awake. It was the most painful thing I can remember. I don't know why these hospitals with a religious affiliation can continue to receive federal funding while forcing the rest of us to live under their anti-woman beliefs.

Just wrong

This is disgusting. All hospitals that do that should be shut down, the churches they're connected to lose their funding and tax exempt statuses, and the staff and all who assist them should lose their licenses and be slapped with a boat load of medical negligence and murder charges and be sent to jail. The fetus is not more important than the life of the woman. Even God believes that.

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