Last month, I wrote about the awful callousness of Catholic hospitals when a woman arrives needing an emergency abortion. As long as there’s a fetal heartbeat, the clergy-run ethics committees of these hospitals often deny doctors permission to operate, even if the woman is hemorrhaging and dying before their eyes. Some doctors end up struggling desperately to keep their patient alive until the fetus dies, so they can operate and save her life. Others send these women to the nearest secular hospital, even if it’s far away, because a long, risky ambulance ride gives them a better chance of survival than they’d have at a Catholic hospital.
But, rereading that post, I realize it gave a false impression which I’d like to correct. I unfairly implied that Catholicism is the only Christian sect which views women’s lives as worthless and disposable. That was wrong of me, and I thank Republican representative and evangelical Christian Joe Pitts for the reminder:
[C]urrently, all hospitals in America that receive Medicare or Medicaid funding are bound by a 1986 law known as EMTALA to provide emergency care to all comers, regardless of their ability to pay or other factors.
…Pitts’ new bill would free hospitals from any abortion requirement under EMTALA, meaning that medical providers who aren’t willing to terminate pregnancies wouldn’t have to – nor would they have to facilitate a transfer.
HR 358, the bill proposed by Pitts, would make any hospital legally free to do what Catholic bishops want all hospitals to do – categorically refuse to perform abortion under any circumstances, even if there’s no other way to save the woman’s life. The bill even frees hospitals from the obligation to transfer a woman to a different hospital that will perform them (section 2.g.1.D). If this bill became law, if a woman dying from complications of pregnancy (such as ectopic pregnancy or placental abruption) came to a hospital, they could legally let her hemorrhage to death on the waiting room floor and face no consequences.
Even by the standards of the religious right, this bill is extraordinary in its open and unconcealed hatred for women. We should be used to their normal level of misogyny – like the Republican-controlled House attempting to shut down all private insurance coverage of abortion, or the release of yet more phony, deceptively-edited videos purporting to show Planned Parenthood clinics aiding sex traffickers (noteworthy because Planned Parenthood actually did contact the proper authorities after these visits, not that this stopped the professional liars behind the videos) – but this one stands out even among those. In the past, the religious right has rarely been willing to so explicitly state its belief that women should die, but for whatever reason, they feel less constrained now in voicing their real position.
We would never countenance any other religious group imposing its cruel will in this way. We would never tolerate a Jehovah’s Witness hospital that refused to perform transfusions on anyone, even people who arrive at the hospital bleeding to death. But because misogyny is deeply embedded into the structure of nearly all religions, and that prejudice has seeped into our moral opinions, society is somehow more accepting of this when women are the targets.
Well, that prejudice has to be turned back, and this story is a good starting point. This needs to be absolutely clear in everyone’s mind: The religious right hates women. When they claim to love women, when they claim to be moral or compassionate, think of this, and remember they firmly believe that women whose lives can be saved should be abandoned to die. They are not loving, they are not compassionate. They think of half their fellow human beings as disposable objects, and behind their smiles and flowery language, there’s a heart beating with poison.