Could Savita’s Death Have Happened in the U.S.?

I swore I wasn’t going to write about Savita again today, but it seems I can’t avoid it. I had thought until today that Savita’s death could not have happen in the United States today, because the “right of conscience” bill put forward in the House last winter, which would have let doctors with religious objections to abortion refuse to perform an abortion even to save the life of a woman, ultimately failed. I just learned that I was wrong, and I am sitting here in a bit of shock.

I’ll never forget this; it was awful — I had one of my partners accept this patient at 19 weeks. The pregnancy was in the vagina. It was over… And so he takes this patient and transferred her to [our] tertiary medical center, which I was just livid about, and, you know, “we’re going to save the pregnancy.” So of course, I’m on call when she gets septic, and she’s septic to the point that I’m pushing pressors on labor and delivery trying to keep her blood pressure up, and I have her on a cooling blanket because she’s 106 degrees. And I needed to get everything out. And so I put the ultrasound machine on and there was still a heartbeat, and [the ethics committee] wouldn’t let me because there was still a heartbeat. This woman is dying before our eyes.

This is the testimony of a doctor working in a Catholic hospital in the United States. And it’s a case essentially exactly like Savita’s. A miscarriage in process, septicemia, and a heartbeat. Did the woman die?

I went in to examine her, and I was able to find the umbilical cord through the membranes and just snapped the umbilical cord and so that I could put the ultrasound — “Oh look. No heartbeat. Let’s go.” She was so sick she was in the [intensive care unit] for about 10 days and very nearly died… Her bleeding was so bad that the sclera, the white of her eyes, were red, filled with blood… And I said, “I just can’t do this. I can’t put myself behind this. This is not worth it to me.” That’s why I left.

The doctor cut the umbilical cord so that the heartbeat would disappear so that they could “get everything out” and give the woman the treatment needed to ultimately save her life. And still, it almost wasn’t enough. She almost died and spent ten days in the ICU.

This story and many others like it come from a study published in 2008 in the American Journal of Public Health. The study is called “When There’s a Heartbeat: Miscarriage Management in Catholic-Owned Hospitals.” Here is the abstract:

As Catholic-owned hospitals merge with or take over other facilities, they impose restrictions on reproductive health services, including abortion and contraceptive services. Our interviews with US obstetrician–gynecologists working in Catholic-owned hospitals revealed that they are also restricted in managing miscarriages.

Catholic-owned hospital ethics committees denied approval of uterine evacuation while fetal heart tones were still present, forcing physicians to delay care or transport miscarrying patients to non–Catholic-owned facilities. Some physicians intentionally violated protocol because they felt patient safety was compromised.

Although Catholic doctrine officially deems abortion permissible to preserve the life of the woman, Catholic-owned hospital ethics committees differ in their interpretation of how much health risk constitutes a threat to a woman’s life and therefore how much risk must be present before they approve the intervention.

Reread that abstract a couple of times if you need to. It’s very clear and says pretty much everything that needs to be said. Catholic hospitals in the U.S. follow Catholic doctrine in the way they practice medicine, and as part of that they generally refuse to conduct a medically necessary abortion as long as a fetal heartbeat remains – which is exactly what was done in Savita’s case. They get around the fact that they are (I think) legally required to carry out an abortion if it is necessary to save a mother’s life by engaging in philosophical conversations about exactly what actually constitutes a threat to a woman’s life, and these hospitals actually have ethical committees that make the final calls rather than doctors.

And in case anyone is wondering about just how callous the decisions regarding women’s very lives made by such committees can be, take a look at this case from 1998:

Michelle Lee knows she should not have another child. Her heart pumps so weakly and irregularly that she has waited 2 1/2 years for a new one. The strain that pregnancy puts on the body, her doctors had sternly warned her for years, might kill her.

So last month, when she discovered she had accidentally gotten pregnant, Lee, 26, faced an agonizing prospect: saving her fetus or saving herself. She loves babies. Yet, finally, she went to Louisiana State University Medical Center, the century-old hospital whose cardiologists tend to her heart, and said she wanted an abortion.

The hospital refused.

A committee of five LSU doctors concluded that Lee’s chance of dying was not greater than 50 percent. And under Louisiana law, a public hospital could not perform an abortion on Lee unless her life were endangered. They decided her case didn’t meet the test.

So Lee, now 10 weeks pregnant, was taken by ambulance to Houston yesterday for the potentially life-saving abortion. She is scheduled to undergo the procedure today at St. Luke’s Episcopal Hospital, paid for with donations from around the country.

This particular hospital was not Catholic, but in Louisiana it is against the law for any hospital that receives state funds to perform an abortion except on pregnancies that result from rape or incest or endanger a woman’s life. My point in bringing up this example is to point out the sort of decisions committees convened to determine whether a pregnancy constitutes a threat to a woman’s health sometimes make. Somehow this committee determined that because Lee’s chance of dying as a result of her pregnancy was less than 50%, they could deny her an abortion. As a woman who has successfully carried two healthy pregnancies to term, this makes me sick to my stomach.

But back to the whole Catholic hospital bit. What I read made me wonder about how Catholic hospitals in the U.S. handle ectopic pregnancies. Here is what I found:

An ectopic pregnancy is not destined to be a baby. It can never, ever grow to viability. It will, however, grow to injure the pregnant woman. So you’d think treatment shouldn’t be controversial…unless of course you want care at some Catholic hospitals.

Yes, some Catholic ethicists argue that the catholic “Directives” preclude physicians at Catholic hospitals from managing ectopic pregnancies in a  way that involves direct action on the embryo. So a woman can have her whole tube removed (an unnecessary procedure that could reduce her future fertility), but she can not have the pregnancy plucked out (as is done with the standard therapy, a salpingostomy, where a small incision is made in the tube and the pregnancy removed) and she most certainly could not have the methotrexate.

How common is this practice? Well, it is pretty sad that someone had to study it. According to a study from 2011 by Foster e. al., (Womens Health Issues, 2011) some Catholic hospitals refuse to offer methotrexate (three in this study of 16 hospitals). The lack of methotrexate resulted in changes in therapy, transferring patients to other facilities, and even administering it surreptitiously. All of these expose women to unnecessary risks, expense and are, quite frankly, wrong.

Honestly, after reading about how Catholic hospitals handle women who are miscarrying, I was somewhat surprised to find that most Catholic hospitals actually do follow standard medical best practices in dealing with ectopic pregnancies, even though that involves administering a drug that directly kills the (completely nonviable) embryo. The fact remains, however, that some Catholic hospitals in the U.S. do refuse to follow best practices when it comes to ectopic pregnancies.

Anyway, back to Savita’s death, Catholics’ response, and whether or not it could occur in the U.S. Adam Lee over at Daylight Atheism wrote a blog post today about the belated response the Patheos Catholic bloggers are giving to the news of Savita’s death. Apparently they are arguing that Catholic law permitted Savita to have an abortion because it was necessary to save her life, and that the problem was that the doctors at Savita’s hospital were ignorant of Catholic law. In particular, they have suggested that the doctors should have simply delivered the seventeen week fetus and then left its life or death in God’s hands. Adam Lee’s responds as follows:

So, Catholic bloggers, I ask you: If this exception is known to you, why don’t Catholic ethics committees at church-run hospitals know about it? Why don’t theologians who teach at Catholic colleges know about it? Why don’t Catholic bishops know about it? Why don’t Catholic-dominated countries that enact church-supported laws leave this loophole open? And if you’re certain that the church’s “official” position on paper permits this exception, then why do these horror stories keep happening whenever the church has its way?

After reading these stories, Sean has made me a promise. If I am ever in need of urgent medical attention and I am either pregnant or there is any possibility that I might be pregnant and not know it, he won’t take me to a Catholic hospital. And you know what’s interesting? Sean could walk into a hospital knowing that would get the medical care he needed, regardless of his condition or disease. I, in contrast, could not. If I were to walk into a Catholic hospital pregnant, I would know that my health would take second place to questions like whether or not my fetus has a heartbeat.

"Women's Cultures" Reminds Us that the Catholic Church Is Still Out of Touch with Women
Katlyn River, Loved and Grieved: A Story of Late-Term Abortion
When Abortion Restrictions Mean Jail Time
Pope Tries to Have It Both Ways on Family Size
About Libby Anne

Libby Anne grew up in a large evangelical homeschool family highly involved in the Christian Right. College turned her world upside down, and she is today an atheist, a feminist, and a progressive. She blogs about leaving religion, her experience with the Christian Patriarchy and Quiverfull movements, the detrimental effects of the "purity culture," the contradictions of conservative politics, and the importance of feminism.

  • Steve

    Here are some horrific parts from the official Catholic “ethics” guidelines to hospitals:

    The short version:
    An ethics committee should be established…but only if it follows Catholic doctrine
    Do everything you can for the patient….unless it is against Catholic doctrine
    The patient’s decision are to be followed…unless they are against Catholic doctrine
    Always honor advanced directives…unless they are against Catholic doctrine
    Sexual assault victims are to be treated with respect…unless that goes against Catholic doctrine

    I have no idea why shit like that is illegal. The only reason can be religious influence on legislation and so-called “religious exemptions”. They fully expect people in their “care” to be subject to Catholic dogma. Although in many places they don’t do that voluntarily, but only because a Catholic “hospital” is the nearest or only facility. People really need to start wearing wristbands that say “Don’t take me to a Catholic hospital”

    • Steve

      Erm *why shit like that is legal*

  • Michael Busch

    > In particular, they have suggested that the doctors should have simply delivered the seventeen week fetus and then left its life or death in God’s hands<

    Anyone who says that is incredibly ignorant of biology. 17 weeks is 4 to 5 weeks before there is any possibility of viability – the fetus doesn't have any lungs.

    • Anat

      But it’s enough to cover their conscience’s metaphorical ass. If God really wants that fetus to live he can save it. Of course the same logic can support just performing the abortion ASAP and leave the fetus to God.

      • Michael Busch

        True. But the wholesale ignorance of reality bothers me. It’s like they’re treating this like some sort of fantasy role-playing game, when real people are sick or dying.

  • Sara

    Some Catholic Reactions to Savita’s death have been a lot like their responses to the child abuse scandal.

    Compare for example:
    - Savita died because some hospital staff members was misinformed about the Catholic doctrine. Her death was their individual mistake, their human error, just a malpractise, not something that reclects badly on the Catholic Church as a whole…
    - Only few priests have actually abused children. It’s just a couple of bad apples, most priests don’t rape kids. One person’s crimes cannot be blamed on the Catholic Church…

    It’s like in both cases the response has been to try to minimize the problem as much as possible and to steer criticism away from the Catholic organization as a whole to individual people instead while completely ignoring the role the Church and its policies have played.

  • Bix

    I wonder how often doctors do what they need to do to save women’s lives, regardless of the rules imposed by the so-called “ethics” committee.

    • Bix

      And what the results are, if the Catholic hospital administration finds out. Because I feel like we need a big court case to deal with this issue. Doctors should be allowed to provide life-saving care, and patients should be allowed to receive it. Everyone is so much more concerned with the rights of the fetus and the rights of the doctors who want to object due to “conscience”, but no one seems to be thinking about the patient–the woman–whose rights are being infringed.

  • Sgaile-beairt

    louisiana is a VERY catholic state, its counties are even called ‘parishes,” so there is a cultural influence, there, too….here is a whole thread of very conservative traditional catholics debating with some others, where they keep saying, ‘life of the mother, doesn’t happen, but if it does dying for your kid is the best thing, you can do for them & those are the rules unless double effect can be worked somehow…but it doesnt happen anyways!!”

  • BabyRaptor

    “Conscience clauses” are complete bullshit. They shouldn’t be legal.

    Don’t agree with performing abortions? Don’t want to dispense birth control? Don’t want to counsel LGBTs? GET A DIFFERENT JOB. Practice that ‘personal responsibility’ your type is always going on about. It’s sickening that these people think they have the right to inconvenience and even damage other people because they can’t be mature enough to do what needs to be done, or get out and leave it to the adults.

    • Noelle

      Do you think a physician should have to prescribe you a diet pill that is known to cause heart disease, even if it is against her conscience to put you at risk?

      What if you’re a hypochondriac who insists you have cancer and demands twice a week full-body CT scans? Should your doctor be forced to do this as well, it being against his conscience to waste valuable resources while exposing you to enough radiation to eventually give you that cancer you so believe you have anyway?

      What if you have hallucinations that your right hand is possessed by demons and must be surgically removed ? Must a physician do this for you as well?

      • Bix

        Those scenarios are silly and aren’t remotely comparable to refusing to perform a procedure that can save someone’s life. Please don’t trivialize such a serious issue.

      • lucrezaborgia

        How is that even remotely close?

      • BabyRaptor

        Women making the choice to take birth control or needing a life saving abortion are not mentally unsound. Neither is your typical LGBT who seeks out counseling.

        If the doctor has proof that the patient is not acting in sound mind, then that is not the doctor forcing their beliefs on the patient. That’s fine. And it’s an entirely different scenario than “I believe abortion is murder, so you get to die because I won’t do one.”

      • Noelle

        If all conscience clauses are complete BS, then it follows so are those others. Those examples unfortunately not that silly. Doctors are frequently asked to do things that are against conscience and training. Take Hillary’s circumcision example below. Should she have to perform a procedure if she believes it is wrong?

        If parents of an autistic child demand chelation therapy, which is quite dangerous and is not appropriate treatment for ASD, should a physician have to do this? Of course not. And don’t think I trivialize this either. I’ve seen enough people die. But making physician choice illegal is hardly a good idea.

        Doctors and hospitals acting against standard of care for their specialty and training is wrong and rightly punishable. Savita’s case falls more under straight malpractice and the result of a malevolent culture of misinformation.

      • Steve

        Your examples are BS and not something that is applicable for conscience clauses. You said yourself that patients should not be exposed to unnecessary radiation. There are already rules and guidelines about that. There are also rules about not harming patients (beyond the Hippocratic oath with is not binding in any way). The guy with the demon possessed hand could be referred to a psychiatrist.

        I’ve worked in a hospital for a bit. One woman wanted liposuction although she was thin and didn’t need it. The doctors didn’t want to do it, so they made it as hard as possible for her – just doing the minimum amount of work necessary for example and having her pay most or all of it herself. They didn’t manage to dissuade here, but they still did the procedure.

      • Petticoat Philosopher

        These examples are just ridiculous. And here are two big reasons why:

        1.) Abortion is a safe medical procedure that does not damage a person’s body. All the “treatments” you mentioned are explicitly unsafe and/or damaging.

        2.) All the “treatments” you mentioned are not actually treatments. They do not actually treat or cure the conditions that are causing the problem. Amputating the hand of a person who thinks that hand is possessed by demons does not treat that person’s mental health problems. Cancer treatment cannot be considered a treatment when there is no actual cancer to treat. Dangerous diet pills are generally considered to be snake oil. On the other hand, abortion actually IS the “cure” for the condition that the patient desiring one has, which is an unwanted pregnancy. Abortion actually makes you not pregnant! Amputations do not make people not mentally ill! See how this works? If a woman who was NOT ACTUALLY PREGNANT sought an abortion, I would be totally okay with that doctor refusing to give her one. Okay?

        Refusing to allow doctors to deny a person a safe procedure that is appropriate to their condition and that they opt to have in sound mind is not the same thing as forcing doctors to be at the mercy of self-diagnosing patients who want to write all their own prescriptions and ask for any medical treatment they want regardless of whether or not it makes any sense whatsoever. I mean, come on.

      • Bix

        Circumcision isn’t a life or death situation. It’s not even medically necessary. The patient/parents can be referred to another doctor. A woman going into the ER with an incomplete miscarriage is a life or death situation (or can be , if it’s not treated promptly), and the especially infuriating thing about Savita’s case is that the results were entirely predictable. It’s not a mystery that she got septicaemia. You can’t put that down to misinformation. They went to medical school. Earlier intervention almost certainly would have saved her life, but the doctors didn’t act because of religious beliefs the patient herself did not share. Why do the state’s or the doctors’ religious beliefs trump the patient’s right to access life-saving treatment?

        I’m not sure how doctors are called to go against their training. They might have to make tough decisions about the best course of treatment, and they might have to take significant risks and get creative (that’s how medical advances are made, after all), but the point of training is to help them make the most informed choices and the best calculated risks. And the patients should be part of that process.

        Also, everything Petticoat Philosopher said.

      • Anat

        It isn’t the doctor’s individual conscience but standards of medical practice, which are based on evidence, and are geared towards seeking the patient’s best interests, that preclude following the respective patients’ demands in your hypotheticals. It so happens that your conscience is in alignment with those standards – which makes you a great doctor.

      • Karen

        You misunderstand what a “conscience clause” does. These provisions allow medical professionals, including pharmacists, to refuse to participate in any medical procedure simply because they think the procedure is prohibited by their religion, even if the standard of care requires or permits the procedure. Such clauses are ONLY applicable to abortion and birth control. Jehovah’s Witness doctors are not allowed to refuse to give blood transfusions even those the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society prohibits transfusions with precisely the same vehemence as the Catholic hierarchy prohibits birth control.

        The examples you give actually fall outside the standard of care and might even be harmful to the patient. The patient with the hallucinations is very likely to be considered to lack competence to made his own medical decisions and performing that kind of surgery would be criminal.

      • Noelle

        You may be right, Karen. While I find myself using the words “I can’t, in good conscience do…”, it may not be the conscience clause I am invoking, but rather an attempt to get a patient to understand my position in simpler terms after the explaining of medical literature, physiology, and standard if care isn’t getting through. Such as, “I can’t in good conscience prescribe you methadone and klonopin even though you feel better on them because the 2 together are known to depress your drive to breathe and will likely kill you.” There are physicians who will Rx both, but I won’t aid in a patient finding them either.

        So, I looked it up. The conscience clauses cover any moral exemptions, not only religious. They may be applied to any area of medicine, not only reproductive health. And though they usually fall into play when it comes to religion meets abortion or the morning after pill, they are also seen in states and countries that allow physician-assisted suicide. Some claim it could be applied to docs who allow parents to refuse their kids vaccines. Though I would say that falls under refusal after informed consent, not all docs go through the exhaustive and time-consuming process of discussing every illness that vaccines prevent, how they work, and how those “studies” that stared all this business of connection with autism were a scam.

        If you consider the reverse, that a physician working in this Irish hospital could’ve used his or her own morality to go against hospital procedures, then I’d consider the idea itself to be a good one. It is puzzling that one would choose OB as a specialty if one had qualms with learning and using the expected standard of care procedures for that field.

      • Rosa

        Noelle, the presence or lack of a conscience clause doesn’t allow or disallow doctors to follow their consciences, whether in pursuit of professional ethics (choosing the best treatment for the patient) or religious ethics (choosing the best procedure for God/the doctor).

        What the clauses do is protect doctors and other professionals from legal and professional consequences.

      • Anat

        What if you have hallucinations that your right hand is possessed by demons and must be surgically removed ?

        IIUC actually some body-dysphorias are indeed treated this way successfully. If the patient does not respond to non-surgical therapy then yes, removal of the hand might be a solution, I think I read of cases where it worked.

      • Noelle

        Law and medicine is a tricky thing. There are even laws in place that allow docs to appologize for mistakes, because they’re so afraid of being sued. Med students and residents are taught to distrust and fear lawyers. Legal language is confusing and twisty, especially to those trained in an entirely different discipline and language.

  • Niemand

    Could and almost certainly has.

  • Hilary Gerber

    I know of a case of a woman who was employed by a Catholic hospital, and her insurance stipulated that she get all if her medical care there. She was pregnant with an anencephalic fetus – its head and brain were not formed correctly. This in one of the many fetal conditions that are termed “incompatible with life” – proof that obstetrics does not consider prenatal existence “life”. Also, since the fetus did have some brain stem activity, it did have a heartbeat.

    The hospital refused to terminate the pregnancy. Even with the fetal heart beat stopped, they refused to evacuate the pregnancy, arguing that she had to go into labor and pass it on her own. Finally, she became septic, much like Savita, and almost died. I think they finally performed the D & E at this point.

    However, as a physician, I strongly believe in conscience clauses. I think they can be used ethically. I think circumcision is genital mutilation, and refuse to perform them or participate in them. However, I would refer to another practitioner without comment other than I don’t perform them, because they are legal here still. (I can hope for the future).

    I’ve written about this before – a health care practitioner should never put themselves in a position where someone’s life is in danger, and a pharmacist should not be able to refuse to dispense lawfully prescribed medication, IMO.

    • Niemand

      Normally I don’t like using the legal system to solve problems in medical care: it’s too easy to misuse for some and too hard to use for others. But this woman has a clear malpractice lawsuit if she wishes to pursue it.

    • lucrezaborgia

      Given that it’s a cosmetic procedure, I don’t see how refusing to do it is the same as refusing to do basic health care. Most Orthodox Jews who have it done for religious reasons have a Mohel do it.

      • Petticoat Philosopher

        Exactly this. I am also strongly against circumcision (I’m also Jewish, btw) and I don’t think that doctors should have to do it but I do think it’s completely different from an abortion because it doesn’t actually treat anything. It’s a cosmetic procedure.

    • Monimonika

      “Even with the fetal heart beat stopped, they refused to evacuate the pregnancy, arguing that she had to go into labor and pass it on her own.”

      Wait, what!? What kind of screwed up Catholic dogma were they applying here? If there’s no heartbeat, how can they not figure out that obviously dead (indeed, DISEASED) tissue needs to be removed? Do they tell people who were in industrial accidents that their non-salvageable but still barely attached limbs need to naturally fall off before they can perform surgery to close up the wounds???

  • wren7

    It’s astonishing that pregnant women or women who think there is a possibility they may be pregnant need to realize that they may literally be risking their life if they go to a Catholic hospital for healthcare or for an emergency. How many women, or the men who care about them, even realize this? In my fairly large city, a Catholic hospital group which already operated several hospitals here took over a city hospital that had the best trauma center in the region. There was much public discussion about the effect this would have on women’s healthcare at the hospital, such as tubal ligation after delivery and possibly emergency abortions, although I don’t remember that specifically. Finally an arrangement was hammered out which carved out women’s healthcare in a specific part of the hospital, and that was under a totally separate corporation/governance. (I live in a fairly liberal city in a very conservative Republican state.). It’s atrocious that this even had to be done.

    Maybe one thing Savita’s tragic case will accomplish is to cause women to be aware of this very important issue and, like Libby Anne, discuss the possibility of their needing emergency care while pregnant so that they can research non-Catholic hospital alternatives in advance. This also brings into question choosing an OB who has admitting privileges at a non-Catholic hospital. I can’t believe that in the 21st century women have to even consider these issues.

    • lucrezaborgia

      There is only ONE hospital in my region that isn’t Catholic though I could be wrong.

  • wren7

    Does anyone know of statistics on deaths of pregnant women in the U.S. caused by inappropriate medical care, such as delaying or refusing to perform an abortion when the woman’s life is in danger? Several examples have been mentioned so I’m wondering just how big a problem this is in the U.S. Certainly the apparent trend of Catholic hospitals merging with and taking over non-Catholic hospitals is an onerous development for women.

  • lucrezaborgia
  • Kathleen

    You said, “If I am ever in need of urgent medical attention and I am either pregnant or there is any possibility that I might be pregnant and not know it, he won’t take me to a Catholic hospital.”

    I would suggest you also educate yourself on how Catholic hospitals ignore advance medical directives that all hospitals are required by law to support. Even if you have specified that you want to be allowed to die if there is no hope of saving you, the Council of Catholic Bishops has directed that you will be kept alive as long as possible anyway, including using methods (like resuscitation or intravenous feeding) that your advance directive says you do not want. And you better hope that you are not in much pain as you are dying, because the Council of Catholic Bishops believes you must consciously experience “redemptive suffering” prior to your demise.

    I learned this and more when I prepared an advance medical directive in preparation for surgery at a Catholic hospital. The hospital’s patient documentation was very confusing on the subject of advance directives, but hinted that they might not follow all my directives. So, I called the hospital’s patient services department and they would not answer my questions, but referred me to the Council of Catholic Bishops “Ethical and Religious Directives for Catholic Health Care Services.” Be sure to find the latest version, as the version that still comes out on top in internet searches is an older and less objectionable version (although it is still plenty objectionable). If I had been able to delay my surgery, I would have changed hospitals (and would also have needed to change doctors, if they did not practice in a non-Catholic hospital), but I couldn’t delay long enough. So, I added a clause to my directive stating that if I were no longer able to make medical decisions for myself, that I should be transported to a specific hospital in my area that I knew would follow my directive as written.

    Horror stories abound of children and other next-of-kin trying to get appropriate end-of-life care for dying relatives in Catholic hospitals. I don’t know why this end-of-life aspect of Catholic medical care does not get the attention it deserves, because everybody dies.

  • Lana


  • Christine

    I’m starting to realise why the obstetrics department at the Catholic hospital in my city in Australia was allowed to close. There are no Catholic hospitals with obstetrics departments in my state, possibly the whole country. And I dearly wish we could close all the Catholic hospitals – they receive government money, but have their own governance, which makes administration an utter nightmare.

    • Christine

      The one in my city was required to close.

  • Tracey

    Maybe we should be talking about the ethics of action vs. inaction since that’s where Catholic doctrine had got itself all hung up. I think it’s interesting that one of the bits of a Catholic mass (the confiteor) includes confessing that “I have sinned through what I have done and what I have failed to do.” This clearly demonstrates we are supposed to be held accountable for action and inaction.
    Doctors who wait for the heartbeat to stop are giving the baby/bundle of tissue/whatever a day or two more? At most? This as a result of failing to outright kill it (action).
    And through inaction they harm, then kill, a grown woman who could have lived out a normal life. What’s more the baby can’t know the fear of what’s happening to it. One death through action vs. an arguably crueler double death through inaction… the latter seems a worse sin.

  • Danielle

    My husband and I have the same deal. We currently live across the street from a catholic hospital and have agreed that any time I am potentially pregnant, he will insist on going somewhere else if I have an emergency come up.

  • Shayna

    I’ve been reading the comments on some of the Irish news/pro-life website articles and I have noticed the same thing lucrezaborgia’s linked article is pointing out.

    There is some serious cognitive dissonance about what actually constitutes an abortion for some of these people. I saw someone saying (many times) that the removal of an ectopic pregnancy ‘doesn’t count’ as an abortion because it wasn’t taking place in the uterus. Someone else claimed that the definition of abortion is when the fetus is chopped into pieces and then vacuumed from the uterus. The position seems to be that abortion is never needed to save the life of the mother, because if it is we will call it something else. *skeptical look* I just don’t get it.

    • Christine

      So at this point they’re defining abortion as any intervention they don’t like. It’s not an abortion (except medically) if it’s out of the uterus. It is an abortion (except medically) if it’s before implantation.

  • Karen

    The Catholic right wing now says Savitas self-induced an abortion: see comments here.

    • Libby Anne

      And now I think I’m going to be sick. That’s just … twisted.

    • phantomreader42

      Which just shows that they’re lying to cover up a murder by the Rape Children Cult.

  • Alex

    What we need to solve this problem is to abolish conscience clauses that protect decisions that would otherwise be grounds for a malpractice suit, and then we need some malpractice judgments so large that ownership of the hospitals in question is transferred from the International Society for the Protection of Pedophiles and Suppression of Women to the women they tortured, or the families of the women they murdered, to cover the judgments.