It’s no secret there are many in this country who wish to deny women who have unwanted pregnancies the medical procedure they are guaranteed by law access to. But now, religious “rights” may allow some hospitals to deny women access to pregnancy-ending medical procedures in wanted pregnancies, too.
This may sound confusing, because it is. Similar medical procedures are used to treat some miscarriages and to treat unwanted pregnancies. Some procedures involve dilating the cervix and suctioning the contents of the uterus – some involve induction. Some Catholic hospitals are refusing to perform necessary procedures because they consider extracting or inducing the birth of a fetus – even when necessary for the health and well being of the mother in a wanted pregnancy - to be an abortion.
Tamesha Means of Muskegon, Michigan experienced this firsthand when Mercy Health Partners, a Catholic-affiliated hospital—and the only hospital in her county— refused to induce labor when her water broke early. Twice she was sent home with medication, when the safest course of treatment for her was to induce labor or otherwise end her pregnancy. From the ACLU’s press release:
Because of its Catholic affiliation and binding directives, the hospital told Means that there was nothing it could do and did not tell Means that terminating her pregnancy was an option and the safest course for her condition. When Means returned to the hospital a third time in extreme distress and with an infection, the hospital once again prepared to send her home. While staff prepared her discharge paperwork, she began to deliver. Only then did the hospital begin tending to Means’ miscarriage.
I’m assuming these are trained medical doctors who know when a pregnancy cannot be saved. Yet they are unable to treat a woman in serious need of treatment because of the religious “rights” of the hospital.
Here’s the thing that I have a problem with; religion is an idea – an organized system of beliefs. Ideas don’t have “rights” – human beings do. That an institution’s “rights” would trump those of a living being is simply unbelievable to me.
The Root writer Kelly Goff says about the case:
Just think for a moment. There was once a time when a private hospital would have said that being forced to treat a black patient was a violation of its rights, until the federal government stepped in.
And even today, many who consider themselves libertarians tend to stand by such convictions. I once engaged in a lively on-air debate with a self-described “libertarian” of whom I asked the following: “Let’s say there is a plane crash and I happen to be near death due to my injuries. Do you believe a private hospital, even if it is the only one in that town, has the right to deny me service?” To which he replied, “Sorry, but yes.”
The American Civil Liberties Union is now suing the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops on behalf of Tamesha Means – and all other women who may be denied procedures because, according to the Catholic church, a faintly detected heartbeat of a being who can not live independently of its host has more rights to life than the host herself.
(photo: Getty Images)