Catholic Hospitals’ Practices Fall ‘Below the Radar’

Jill Morrison

Just weeks ago, St. Joseph's Hospital in Arizona saved the life of a young mother of four with an emergency abortion. Join us to ensure that all U.S. Catholic hospitals protect patients' rights and are held to the highest standard of care.

This is cross-posted from the National Women’s Law Center’s blog Womenstake

If you have any social life whatsoever, eventually you will find yourself talking about what you do for a living.  My day job is making sure that women’s access to reproductive health care isn’t compromised by the religious beliefs of their hospitals and health care providers. If you don’t think this is great cocktail party fodder, you have different friends than I do.

There is compelling evidence that Catholic hospitals sometimes delay or deny treatment to women with certain pregnancy complications. Why? Because doctors can still detect a heartbeat, but we are talking about cases where there is no medical treatment that would allow these pregnancies to continue.  These women are experiencing what is called in the medical literature an “inevitable abortion.”  Ectopic pregnancies (those that grow in a fallopian tube) are also never viable.  The standard of care requires medical intervention to end these pregnancies because the patients are at risk for hemorrhaging, infection, or in the case of ectopic pregnancies, a tubal rupture that could be fatal. Regardless of where someone stands on the abortion issue, every person I’ve ever discussed this with has been absolutely appalled that this happens. 

We are greatly encouraged that this issue has caught the attention of the Washington Post and the New York Times’ Nicholas Kristof. To put an end to these practices, NWLC is asking the Department of Health and Human Services to find that these practices violate federal laws that protect patients’ right to receive the standard of care, emergency care, and adequate information on their treatment options. 

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We urge you to share your story if you’ve been denied appropriate treatment of your pregnancy complications, to take the pledge to get informed, and to let others know about this issue.  We hope that these dangerous practices won’t be Below the Radar for much longer.

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