• Thu, Dec 5 - 2:00 pm ET

Some Catholic Hospitals Are Refusing To Treat Miscarrying Women Because, Abortion

175457038It’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)

You can reach this post's author, Maria Guido, on twitter.
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  • http://ultimatemamacat.tumblr.com/ Hana Graham

    This is a huge issue for me. This could go so, so badly. Recently, in the Republic of Ireland, a woman lost her life because of this. Abortion is still technically completely illegal in both North and South.

    • gothicgaelicgirl

      And as an Irish national, I cannot express just how horrified and ashamed at this I am… We have to be one of the most backward countries in the world…

    • http://ultimatemamacat.tumblr.com/ Hana Graham

      Yeah, I live up north in Belfast. Coming from America, the backwards attitude here with women’s rights, especially abortion, is so shocking.

    • gothicgaelicgirl

      it is fairly horrendous alright, and nearly always when we are in a vulnerabale position too (hospitals, etc)

  • CMJ

    My senior seminar in undergrad was about Reproductive Policy. This was covered pretty extensively as my professor’s wife actually had to wait for her D&C to be approved because she went to a Catholic hospital after her miscarriage. This was also in Michigan.

    It is appalling to be that women have to deal with this when they are already going through a traumatic experience.

    Necessary medical procedures should never be trumped by a board of priests who clearly don’t understand the importance of said medical procedures.

  • AP

    It’s common knowledge that Catholic hospitals do not offer birth control or anything resembling an abortion service. I do not understand why this woman went to this hospital THREE times, even though she’d been told each time what care they could offer and that she should consult her own doctor.

    • Rachel Sea

      The church has been buying up hospitals to such an extent that in some areas it is impossible not to go to a Catholic-run hospital. Many of them don’t even make it clear that they are Catholic.

    • gothicgaelicgirl

      yup this is why for me- homebirth all the way.
      I’ve heard too many horror stories from friends who had their little ones in a RELIGIOUS hospital… *shudder*

    • CMJ

      It’s the only hospital in Muskegon.

    • Tinyfaeri

      If you run a hospital, you should be prepared to provide medical care, especially when someone’s life is at stake.

    • http://ultimatemamacat.tumblr.com/ Hana Graham

      What about “first do no harm”?

    • Amber Starr

      I’m pretty sure that the article stated that it was the only hospital in her county. Sounds like she really didn’t have a choice in the matter.

    • AP

      Well, then the government or another organization should buy the hospital.

    • Blooming_Babies

      Right why go with the simple answer, when you can suggest total nonsense. Life saving services and medical best practice are to be provided at every hospital no exceptions.

    • EX

      So maybe you want to take back the victim blaming in your original comment?

    • matt30fl

      In many of these cases the Catholic Church is buying these hospitals because the government or other organizations had lost so much money they were going to be closed. The it is a false assumption that the choice for the area is “Catholic or secular hospital”. The choice here was “Catholic Hospital or no hospital” for the city.

  • Rachel Sea

    We need rulings that make it plain, once and for all, that religious beliefs do not trump law. Willfully endangering a person’s life because of how some old guy interprets a book written by other older guys about their invisible sky friend is an abomination, and should be criminal.

    • Iwill Findu

      I have no problem with church and state being totally separate, and in fact think they should be. But I do find it offensive that’s it’s somehow alright to bash one religion but not others, if you wouldn’t tell a Jewish or Muslim they have an invisible sky friend why is it just fine to say that about Christians?

    • CMJ

      Pretty sure this article is about Catholics…hence the bashing of Catholicism (or the fact that a bunch of men DO make medical decisions for women). I’m sure if someone of a different religious persuasion did something in the name of God that was ridiculous we would say the same thing.

    • candi514

      Most of the time when somebody says some thing like invisible sky friend its because they don’t believe in ANY god. So yea I bet she would say that to a Jew or Muslim . The bible was written and edited and re-edited by many many many men over hundreds of years it hold absolutely no weight in my life and is just another story book to me and that goes for all religious text of the sort. If that offends you.. I’m sorry that I’m not sorry.

    • Rachel Sea

      Yup. If I were speaking to offend, I would have said imaginary sky friend.

    • keelhaulrose

      I’d say the same thing if there were cases of Jewish or Muslim run hospitals doing this to women (I’m unaware of any Muslim-run hospitals in this country, but I do know there are Jewish-run ones, and they aren’t doing this to women). When you are the only health care system or hospital in the area you should not get to treat women this way because of your ‘beliefs’. Most people don’t live in an area where they can choose which religion they want to treat them in the time of trauma, a hospital’s job should be to heal.

    • Iwill Findu

      Which is why I truly believe that church and state should be separate in all things so that you can tell when/if the church or the state screwing people over. Because when I had my miscarriage and had to jump from doctor to doctor for over a month to finally find one willing to do my D&C it was the state that fucked me and not the church.

    • keelhaulrose

      There needs to be consistent standards. We demand it in so many other aspects of this country, but with health care it’s a big fuck-all. I lived in a town with two hospitals literally across the street from each other, and the standards were so different. Go to X if you want this, go to Y if you need that. I get specializing in one thing or the other, but the standard should be “if you go to a hospital you will get care. You may not get better, but you will get the care that you need, even if it goes against our governing body’s beliefs because our job is to care for whoever walks through our doors.”
      And in places where there aren’t options someone should not have to worry about not getting a safe, legal, common procedure because company policy dictates that ‘we don’t do that because of our beliefs’.

    • Rachel Sea

      I call all gods, even the ones of my people, invisible sky friends, because they are. Even if they are real.

    • Kay_Sue

      This. Winning.

  • Kay_Sue

    This is insane. This woman could have died. WTF?

    • DianaG2

      No, not true.

  • Holly

    The first time I was pregnant I miscarried. It was a traumatic experience because not only had we been trying for years, but it was a horribly painful (and sorry to be graphic…extremely bloody) experience. I was hemorrhaging and my blood pressure bottomed out to 60/40. If I hadn’t had a D&C I would have died. I can’t imagine letting a woman die because of some technicality.

    • Amber Starr

      I’m so sorry to hear this… What a horrible thing to go through.

    • Holly

      Thanks. I’m lucky enough to have 2 healthy, happy kids now. :)

  • thisshortenough

    This sort of thing is the reason Ireland has been up in arms about it’s abortion laws for almost a year now. Savita Halappanavar died due to a miscarriage going septic and it not being treated on time. All because the fetus still had a heartbeat and the hospital refused to abort it, stating that “this is a Catholic country”. As I always say when it comes to religion and female body health “Keep your rosaries, off my ovaries!”

    • gothicgaelicgirl

      I am sometimes ashamed to say I am Irish, purely because of this case.
      Whether you believe in abortion or not, a miscarriage is NOT an abortion.
      I think we can all agree that abortion does involve some degree of decision-making, but who CHOOSES a miscarriage?

      I am so ashamed, and this is why I have NO faith in the Church here. It’s my opinion that they bully, scare and terrify people here into doing what they want.
      Which is why I’ve been Atheist since I was 7.

    • DianaG2

      The hospital did not say that, and Savita never asked for an abortion. She did not want an abortion.

      “Keep your rosaries, off my ovaries!”

      I’d never want my Rosary to be anywhere near any part of you.

      Oh, wait, I get it. You’re implying that your little unborn son or daughter IS a part of you??

      Good one.

    • thisshortenough

      As it’s repeatedly asked for her miscarrying foetus to be aborted when she realised she wasn’t going to receive any treatment unless the fetus was gone. You can fuck right off with your shaming technique that attempts to drag me onto your anti-choice side.

    • DianaG2

      Wow, using the “f” word.

      That will show ME, huh?

      “As it’s repeatedly asked for her miscarrying foetus to be aborted . . .” What does this mean? Are you saying she asked for an abortion? What is your source of information?

      No shaming. (Actually, YOU were doing that, when you mentioned a Catholic devotion in a rather disrespectful manner. All pro-lifers ARE NOT Catholic.)

      Just fact.

  • candi514

    Can I just say this is BULLSHIT! My brain is over loaded with some not so nice things to say about this, I’m going to try to form a coherent thought and come back… that Jon Stewart meme is gold and spot on CMJ.

  • keelhaulrose

    A hospital I used to volunteer at was ‘taken over’ by the Catholics, and new rules were put into place based on Catholic doctrine. A lot of doctors really hated these new rules, they felt it violated their Hippocratic Oath, but felt they couldn’t really leave as it would highly inconvenience their patients. There’s a no-win situation.
    I bet there’s a lot of staff there that wanted to do the right thing, but didn’t want to loose their jobs and have to try to find another with a “didn’t follow hospital policy” mark on their record. The people making these decisions are, most of the time, not in the trenches dealing with the patients. It’s easy to make a rule when you don’t have to deal with a woman who is going to get sick because of it.

  • Natasha B

    Aaaaand this is why, even though I was raised Catholic (catholic school and errythang) I refused to have my daughter in the Catholic hospital and chose the Lutheran one instead. I am so thankful I had a choice. It’s also one of the reasons I pretty much am more solely spiritual than any kind of organized religion-so much of what is done in the name of religion is scary and sad.

  • AlexMMR

    Yup, all those pro-lifers would have killed me a few years ago when I lost my first pregnancy. If we had waited another 24 hours, I would have died right along with my girls. And people wonder how I can be so pro-choice. Well, my choices were either pro-choice or dead.

  • AlbinoWino

    I worked with a woman whose daughter was a few months into pregnancy when they discovered the fetus had a bunch of abnormalities including an extra chromosome on every cell (Trisomy 18 I believe). They weren’t even sure how the fetus was still alive and due to many factors recommended to end the pregnancy. This was at a Catholic hospital and while their family was very against abortion, they agreed with their doctor’s recommendations. It pained me to see that they still managed to feel so much shame over this. Since the fetus was still alive, she had to have her boyfriend drive her 300 miles away to a hospital that would terminate her pregnancy.

    • DianaG2

      What is your source of information for this?

  • Lu

    I’ve been to this hospital wow. At 9am they stop whatever they’re doing and pray yeah no thanks

    • gothicgaelicgirl

      that is terrifying…. that would totally put me off ever going again…

  • http://wtfihaveakid.blogspot.ca/ jendra_berri

    Well, just so we’re all clear that so long as a fetus gets to beat out a few more heartbeats in a doomed pregnancy, that’s worth costing a woman her life.

  • C.J.

    My grandmother had a similar situation at a Catholic hospital in Canada 50 years ago. They kept her in the hospital while she was miscarrying but refused to treat her. They just elevated her legs and told her they couldn’t do anything else to help her with her “abortion”. I am appalled that this still happens today. Even if you don’t believe in abortion a miscarriage is not the same thing. Abortion is a choice, a miscarriage is not. I’m Catholic and this makes me sick. The mother’s life should be the priority.

  • jessica

    Obviously, there are a lot of things about stories like these that don’t make sense to me. But there is one in particular that I’m hoping someone here can explain to me? Any catholics out there, please explain to this jew! Basically, in the Jewish religion we have whole lot of laws we are supposed to follow. One of them specifically states that pretty much all religious laws and customs, even the observance of the Sabbath, are to be dismissed in matters of life or death. And what can be considered a matter of life and death is interpreted by most pretty liberally btw. For example, we’re supposed to observe the Sabbath from sundown Friday to sundown Saturday. During this time we’re not allowed to work. However, if a person is in an accident say Saturday morning and gets a severe cut the doctor would be expected to do his work since, though that cut may not be life threatening in terms of causing the person to bleed out, it can be seen as life threatening because it is deep enough that he or she is now susceptible to contracting a subcutaneous infection that could quickly spiral out of control. See what I mean? It is my understanding that Catholicism has similar laws in place though of course I am unsure of the specifics. So it seems to me that these policies in Catholic hospitals fly in the face of these religious laws since a d&c is considered standard treatment in case of an incomplete miscarriage due to the high risk of infection. Am I wrong?

  • gothicgaelicgirl

    Once again, one word popped into my head… Ireland…
    A good friend of mine unfortunately started miscarrying at 9 weeks. She called the hospital and they told her to stay home and sit on the loo, that there was no point coming as there was nothing they could do. THEN THEY HUNG UP ON HER.
    Ridiculous how she was treated, not only with no support or help (her husband was away on duty) but what of the risk of infection?
    The loss she felt?

    Unbelievable…We’re so far behind here…

  • Ashlea Phenicie

    This is so terrifying to me. My mother (I was adopted) had several ectopic pregnancies and would have died had she not received immediate care for the first one. I can’t imagine her care being denied or delayed. So scary.