According to the American Civil Liberties Union, the Roman Catholic Diocese of Phoenix is pressuring one of the nation’s largest hospital systems to stop providing life-saving abortions. This is after a November 2009 decision by the hospital to provide a life-saving abortion to a young mother of four after doctors determined that without the medical procedure the woman would almost certainly have died.
Thomas J. Olmsted, Bishop of Phoenix, does not deny that the medical care the woman received was necessary to save her life. Yet in a November 22, 2010 letter to Catholic Healthcare West the bishop states that the hospital has “actively engaged in an abortion procedure that is immoral” and threatens to remove the hospital’s endorsement unless CHW “acknowledges in writing that the medical procedure that resulted in the abortion at St. Joseph’s Hospital was a violation” of the policy that governs all Catholic hospitals and “will never occur again at St. Joseph’s Hospital.”
Thankfully the ACLU stepped in and, citing this Arizona incident and other refusals of emergency care, wrote to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services and alerted them to the potential violations of federal law by religiously affiliated hospitals that refuse to provide emergency abortions and requested an investigation.
These hospitals all may have some religious affiliation, but that affiliation does not exempt them from federal law, nor can they use that affiliation as a sword to deny women access to emergency life-saving care. The first and only priority should be the administration of any services necessary to care for a patient and it should be qualified medical professionals, not bishops, who make the determination as to what that care entails.
photo courtesy of landu via Flickr