ACLU Warns Catholic Hospitals They Must Provide Life-Saving Abortions

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


Cat Logan
Cat L5 years ago

From what I read in my newspaper the surgery on the woman could have been performed without an unneccessarry Murder of a baby!

Martha Eberle
Martha Eberle5 years ago

Why is the life of a fetus more important than the life of a breathing woman citizen? ... oh, I answered my own question -- I added the word, "woman" to citizen.

Bob K.
Bob K.5 years ago

She didn't go to the hospital for an abortion, she went for health care. The abortion was decided on after she was there.

Her death would leave 4 children without a mother, not 5. Unless she would live long enough for the new baby to survive the unborn child would die with her.

When I was in Catholic Cathecism classes we were taught that was the one case where abortion was allowed. Maybe the nuns didn't know what they were talking about. Maybe things have become more polarized. Most certainly the facts must be known to reach a valid conclusion.

Tom Sullivan
Tom C Sullivan5 years ago

I agree it is up to the women, but arent these hospitals private, if so they do have the right to refuse.

Jennifer H.
Jennifer H.5 years ago

Amber M. & Petra Luna & Past Member. I am with you 100% on your comments. This was exactly what was going through my head. I am glad to see that MOST people are not ignorant, arrogant fools on this issue. I am a single mom of 3 with a lot of health issues. With my 3rd child I had a lot of problems. It was more that I could lose her, but if they would have told me I needed to abort I sure would not have gone to a church hospital for it. I would be afraid they would botch the procedure just to "punish" me. Scary Catholics. These are the same people that told my great grandma that her baby that was born still born could not be buried on "sacred" ground because the baby did not live long enough to be baptised. The twin only lived 2 days, and was ok to be buried on church ground because she had been baptised. My great grandma declined a church burial for both babies. She buried them both in one casket at the bottom of the hill and said the baptised sister would take her to Heaven. I guess my Grandma knew that God is smarter than the church. It seems not much has changed in 100 years with the Catholic church. Maybe they wouldn't have had to launch a Catholics Come Home campaign if they hadn't proven to be so uncompassionate in the first place. So on top of a woman losing both children in child birth your going to tell her one has to go to hell. Your going to tell me that I should die to give birth to another baby and leave all my kids without a mother.

Sarah D.
Sarah D5 years ago

Woman's body, woman's choice, woman's right.

In addition to saying that Catholic hospitals must perform life-saving abortions, there should also be a threat put out that if Catholic hospitals don't perform life-saving abortions for women, and girls, that the staff will be charged with murder and medical as well as criminal negligence.

Any hospital that allows their patients to die because they're too arrogant to go against their religious beliefs should be shut down and the stuff be sent to prison.

Petra Luna
Petra Luna5 years ago

*sigh* Okay, lets say this was cancer tumor removal, or a heart valve transplant. Would you then go to a hospital that doesn't provide that service and demand it happen because your life is on the line? No. Instead, you go to a place where you can get the expert care. So why go to a Catholic Hospital for an abortion where you know they've never done one at all? Anyway, even if I thought I had to have it, I would not trust a Catholic Hospital to perform an abortion on me, because I don't feel they are safe enough to do it. If I had to have one to save my life, I want a place that will take care of me properly. It's absurd to force them to do what they're obviously NOT in business for.

Jean S.
Jean Saja5 years ago

Abortion should be the woman's decision.

Amber M.
Amber Beasley5 years ago

I agree with a life saving abortion like that. she's a mother with 4 kids, if she dies that leaves 5 babies behind with no mother. this is a totally different situation than someone getting an abortion just because they don't want a baby.

Amber M.
Amber Beasley5 years ago

I agree with a life saving abortion like that. she's a mother with 4 kids, if she dies that leaves 5 babies behind with no mother. this is a totally different situation than someone getting an abortion just because they don't want a baby.