Catholic Church condemns a hospital for terminating an 11 week pregnancy to save a mother’s life

My wife sent me this article earlier today. It’s about a sad story that occurred last fall.  A 27 year old woman came into the hospital with complications from her pregnancy. She was only 11 weeks along and it was determined by the doctors at St. Joseph’s Hospital and Medical Center in Phoenix that the mother was at risk of death from hypertension and heart failure… killing the baby in the process. So, the decision was made to abort the fetus, which did indeed save the mother’s life.

Yes, this is always a sad thing to read. But, it gets worse. The Catholic Church had to give their two cents. Sister Margaret McBride, a longtime senior administrator at the hospital, was excommunicated by the Bishop of the diocese, Bishop Thomas Olmstead.

Having an abortion is against Catholic teachings. Although the move caused an uproar, with some critics pointing out that even pedophile priests weren’t excommunicated, Bishop Olmstead went a step further on Tuesday. He stripped St. Joseph’s Hospital of its affiliation with the Catholic Church. He argued hospital officials did not try to save both the mother and child.

“Instead of treating the disease, St. Joseph’s medical staff and ethics committee decided that the healthy, 11-week old baby should be directly killed,” Olmstead said. However, St. Joseph Hospital’s CEO Linda Hunt disagreed with that statement. ”Our first priority is to save both patients. If that is not possible, we always save the life we can save,” said Hunt.

And, what do you suppose would have happened if the hospital had stuck to it’s religious roots, tried to save both, and then the mother and her unborn baby die? Do you think the Catholic Church would have come out for the hospital? Would they apologize for letting religion interfere with medical practices? Would they blame god for not saving them both? No. No. And, no. Sadly, two lives would have been lost instead of one and they would have been ok with that. At least they would have stuck to their religious convictions.

Hospitals don’t need to be affiliated with churches. There are too many barriers in religion to overcome to allow medicine to work the way it should, without constraints or worry of excommunication. Remember, if religion had it’s way, we would all still be praying for demons to leave our bodies whenever we got sick. Religion never solved one medical mystery. Prayer doesn’t heal. And, letting two people die to prove a point that ending an 11 week pregnancy is a mortal sin is just disgusting. Catholics should be ashamed by this… in case hundreds of priests molesting thousands of innocent children wasn’t enough.

  • Jude

    Catholics always come down on the side of the aborted fetus. A relative of mine left the church because of this theological position. "What good is that baby without the mother to take care of it?" she asked me once indignantly. At a Catholic hospital in the 1980s, instead of letting a female nurse catheterize my then-husband, the hospital brought in an untrained male orderly. They're really lucky that he didn't cause an infection. Yes, that's right, women nurses in a Catholic hospital in the 1980s were not allowed to catheterize male patients. I wonder if that is still the case?

  • colluvial

    I guess the "pro-life" label that anti-abortionists like to wear is really misplaced here. If St. Joseph’s Hospital did what the Catholic Overlords wanted, not only would they have demonstrated that no sane person should ever want to end up there, but they would likely be battling a malpractice lawsuit.

  • Robbie

    I wonder what would pro-lifers would be saying about something like this when technology of "artificial womb" or "transplantation of fetus" is available.

    I heard of only few examples Christians "adopting" embryos that would have been destroyed otherwise. They'd impregnate themselves and carry baby to term. The number of these "snow flakes" babies maybe counted to a few dozen to hundred maybe around the country.

    How about this – technology maybe some time in the future available to get the fetus out of the woman who is doing abortion without any harm to it and transplanted into a woman who is willing to carry the baby to term. This will of course have to be a pro-lifer who will carry the baby or a surrogate in India (many Christians today travel to India to have a surrogate baby as it is much cheaper there vs. the United states and legal hurdles are much lower.)

    Protesters at abortion clinics say often times they'll have someone to adopt the baby if the woman who plans abortion carries it to term and gives it up for adoption.

    Let's assume that the woman will not want to carry the baby but will be willing to have it "transplanted" into another woman. Let's assume this technology is perfected to the point of the success rate of Invitro Fertilization that has a very high rate (90% or so?) of successful pregnancy once embryos are implanted.

    The IVF women who have more than 1-2 embryos implanted can chose to "transplant" the fetus into a woman or the same technology can be used to transplant 1-2 fetuses of the women who are going for abortion. Makes no difference.

    So, WILL THERE BE ENOUGH PRO-LIFE WOMEN IN AMERICA OR THE WORLD WHO WILL BE WILLING TO GET A TRANSPLANT FETUS? Would there be enough "righteous" women and men who will decide that this will be a godly thing to do instead of the straight abortion? I would not be surprised if a substantial percentage of the women who'd plan abortion would select this route to avoid moral and ethical problems and also help other families. This of course needs to be totally voluntary and unpaid or a small fee can be charged to the family adopting the transplant to cover medical expenses of the woman originating the fetus.

    Or how about if artificial wombs are going to host the transplanted baby? How many individuals will in 9 months be willing to sign on and be on the list? How many churches and individuals, or maybe there will be secular charities that will take on these babies (foster homes or private charities that are either religiously related or not), maybe there will be Muslim or Jewish or Buddhist charities or secular charities or government will have a social network set up on its own?

    Will there be enough people who'd be willing to adopt the millions of transplanted fetuses.

    I have a feeling that this is not going to happen. The fabric of churches and social structure of the American religious families will crumble, Christian families even if they can adopt a transplant will most likely chose to go for their own baby. Otherwise, you'd have a massive group of people at every abortion clinic and massive groups of people advertising by direct mail, on TV, radio and Internet about adoption. You don't see it.

    Money is the key issue in American Christian families. I have a feeling that they are willing to suffer for Jesus in a comfort of their middle class home with 2 car garage and white picket fence and a dog.

    Pro-life Christians and churches in America will be highly unlikely to follow through with technological advances. They will be overrun and I dare say that they WILL MAKE VERY LITTLE EFFORT TO ACCOMMODATE THE EMBRYO ADOPTIONS.

  • Robbie


    I would not be surprised if when polled "pro-lifers" would say "Yes, great idea to save these babies" with a higher percentange if not 100%, but when asked by age, income, education, etc. very few fertile couples will be willing to carry the fetus to term on their own dime and pay for everything themselves or even churches agreeing to pick up the tab.

    However, if there was a charity or a wealthy individual that would pay for it (religious or secular) I am sure the number will dramatically go up.

    When let's say government steps in and will offer free embryonic transplantation services to willing women (single or married) the thing will spiral out of this world with the conservative movement bitching and moaning that government is involved in abortions (though the whole process will not be abort and throw away but rather abort and transplant or I would not be surprised if the same conservatives will invoke "separation of church and state" to keep the government from this.

    However, if everyone is given free universal health care what would change? Everyone would win in this case. No religious issues to deal with on the health care front but only on the "personal faith" front of everyone involved.

  • James Smith Jo&atild

    It's the same old sad story. Theists feel free to flout the law, common sense, and human decency to have their way and force their sick beliefs on others. IS it any mystery why theists, especially the Catholic church, are regarded with derision and contempt by thinking people?

    Most of the problems of the world are, and always have been, caused by religion. Humanity will never truly be free until the black yoke of religion is lifted by the clear light of truth and rational thinking.

  • MikeK

    Exodus 21:22. If you cause a miscarriage, but the mother survives, you owe the father a fine.

  • Heretic

    Is the Catholic church really that desperate for new members? One would think not, with all the mandated procreation going on.

  • Bobee-Kay Clark

    Pro-life is a misnomer' anti-women is a much more precise term.

  • Ganapati

    It is certainly sad that Bishop Thomas Olmstead wanted to second guess the doctors involved in deciding whether saving both the child and the mother was even a medical possibility but other than that don't see anything else sad about the story.

    The doctors did what was the best uner the circumstances, Sister Margaret McBride agreed with the doctors and both the Sister and the hospital are better off without the oversight of such a Bishop.

  • Matthew

    Everyone fails to understand it is not about the actual "life" of either the woman or the fetus. It is about the "spiritual life" of them. The Catholic church doesn't care if either die so long as the remain spiritually pure. In this instance the aborting of the fetus is a sin on the lives of the mother and the doctors. They would prefer the mother and fetus die but remain untainted by sin.

    • Melonie

      I understand that they want their lives to be untainted by sin, but they are the same people that proclaim that life is precious and that every life needs to be taken care of. It's the fact that the woman, who is a fully formed sentient being, is being held as an equal to an 11 week old fetus that wouldn't be viable on it's own. The untainted by sin undercurrent is what we are all speaking out against, whether it is directly or indirectly.

  • TotalKaosE

    Wow. I'm still surprised that anyone is dumb enough to still listen to the catholic church.
    That's like listening to the grandmother that covers up her son molesting her grandchild, then when everyone finally gets her to admit that it happens, she still invites uncle pedo over for christmas dinner.
    Would anyone listen to that grandmother about anything, or even like her? Even if it wasn't your kid, or brother, or have any ties to you? If you're catholic, probably, but anyone with a brain wouldn't.
    But you know that if the Pope had a woman in their miserable, meaningless life and it was going to die from being pregnant, they'd turn their head when the abortion happened. As well as any single priest or bishop, or level 23 barb/paladin/shaman.
    Religion has done some really decent things, like make cool looking pictures and buildings. The end.

  • LovestoSpooge

    Baffles me why anyone other than the faithful give a shit about what these idiots say.

  • amazonfeet

    This case confirmed that the decision I made to walk out of the Catholic Church and into Unitarian Universalism was the right one to make. It occurred to me that if I were raped, which is the only way I would have gotten pregnant, since I don’t sleep with men and haven’t met the right woman yet (I finally found the courage to come out at 41), the Catholic Church would have expected me to take on a high risk pregnancy after age 35, and die, if necessary, from an aortic dissection while attempting to carry to term a dead or sick baby. I am the third straight known generation in my family, from my mother’s side, to have Marfan’s Syndrome. My youngest niece may be the fourth. The last aortic dissection I had, at 35, damn near killed me. It ***DID*** kill my maternal grandfather at age 39, and an uncle in infancy. I also may have secondary pulmonary hypertension. I have a history of congestive heart failure, valve disease and atrial firillation. If the doctor says”Do NOT get pregnant for ANY reason”, I am damn well Not going against medical advice. I have a whole lot of issues with church people that would make this post too long, but the main issue is that I would not have deserved to die for being the victim of a violent crime. That woman had a form of pulmonary hypertension which kills a lot of people. This case drove the final nails into the coffin of my now completely dead relationship with the Catholic Church. I walked out after 17 years. I have found through actual experience that all the Christians were lying when they said you couldn’t trust atheists, agnostics, pagans and humanists. They were demonized within my hearing since my early teens. They have turned out to be the people that have had my back during some tough times and who kept me from giving up and dying. And the chant you hear coming from pro-choice folks:”Pro-life? That’s a lie! You don’t care if women die!” is absolutely spot on. I have lived it personally, and so has that woman in Phoenix. The former nun and the hospital made the right decision, and the powers that be in this country need to disaffiliate every church related hospital in America that would force a woman to die in these circumstances rather than get the care she needs to survive. Nobody has the right to force me or the woman in Phoenix to die for a faith they can’t even begin to live up to(it’s a long story). Even the Jesus these people claim to follow said “When will you learn the meaning of the words ‘I desire mercy and not sacrifice’?”. These idiots have no mercy….thank you for covering this, and I will share to Facebook. from an agnostic buddhist UU and FORMER evangelical charismatic, Southern Baptist and Roman Catholic…

    • Sri

      Reminds me of Hitler wtnirig in Mein Kampf how he disliked Syphilis and then we discover he got it from a prostitute years earlier!

  • Truth Teller

    As always, there is nothing too absurd, stupid, or evil that religion will not embrace it and demand all other do so, too.

    Most of the problems of the world have been caused by religion. Think of the crusades, the inquisition, the dark ages, the witch burnings, the restrictions on learning, free speech, instilling guilt and shame into children, and the wars fought in the name of religion.

    More recently, think of family planning clinic bombings, oppression of gays and non-believers, murders of doctors and homosexuals, imposition of religious beliefs by force of law, and illegal use of public funds to promote particular religions.

    Mankind will never truly be free until the black yoke of religion is lifted by the clear light of truth and rational thinking.