Womens Health

Nun Who Authorized Abortion to Save Woman's Life is Excommunicated

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It should be so simple.  A woman pregnant with an 11 week old fetus enters a hospital, where a team of medical experts decide that continuing the pregnancy is likely to kill her.  The medical team performs an abortion, and the woman lives.

For approving that action, a long-time nun has now been excommunicated.

A Catholic nun and longtime administrator of St. Joseph's Hospital and Medical Center in Phoenix was reassigned in the wake of a decision to allow a pregnancy to be ended in order to save the life of a critically ill patient.

The decision also drew a sharp rebuke from Bishop Thomas J. Olmsted, head of the Phoenix Diocese, who indicated the woman was "automatically excommunicated" because of the action.

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The Bishop sees no issue with the fact that any other option would have killed both mother and child, and stands by his ruling.

Bishop Thomas J. Olmsted, head of the Phoenix Diocese, indicated in a statement that the Roman Catholic involved was "automatically excommunicated" because of the action. The Catholic Church allows the termination of a pregnancy only as a secondary effect of other treatments, such as radiation of a cancerous uterus.

"I am gravely concerned by the fact that an abortion was performed several months ago in a Catholic hospital in this diocese," Olmsted said in a statement sent to The Arizona Republic. "I am further concerned by the hospital's statement that the termination of a human life was necessary to treat the mother's underlying medical condition.

"An unborn child is not a disease. While medical professionals should certainly try to save a pregnant mother's life, the means by which they do it can never be by directly killing her unborn child. The end does not justify the means."

Olmsted added that if a Catholic "formally cooperates" in an abortion, he or she is automatically excommunicated.

Yet not everyone in the church thinks the situation is so cut and dry.  Some church leaders actually see value in NOT killing women.

Although I cannot disagree with the bishop's theology and support the Church's protection of the sacredness of all life, I suspect he needs "medical" treatment himself: a strong injection of reality.

Most important is a simple reality: If the mother of an 11-week-old fetus dies, the fetus will also die. It is too soon in life for the child to survive outside the womb no matter what the hospital might try. That means two deaths. Is there really a morally defensible reason for two innocents to die when one can live? It's a hackneyed phrase, but what would Jesus have done?

...

It is long past the time to reconsider this. If all life deserves our protection and is sacred to our Creator, then a mother's life is just as worthy as her child's. How has this become lost in the battle over abortion?

Some people, in fact, are wondering if it is ever safe to allow a woman to seek medical help in Catholic hospitals, knowing that their own health and well-being will be put behind religious dogma.

[I]f my life were at stake, or that of a woman I loved, I would not want to risk the chance that a woman less enlightened or flexible than Sister McBride was the ethicist ruling on my case in a medical emergency. So let me make this clear: At the present moment, as a physician, I would not feel comfortable with a woman I cared about seeking obstetric services at a Catholic hospital. In fact, I would not want a pregnant woman I cared about obtaining any medical treatment at a Catholic hospital. From this point forward, I will tell my pregnant patients, in all but the most emergent and high-risk circumstances, to instruct any ambulance that picks them up to avoid Catholic hospitals. That is tragic, because these institutions have a long and noble history of providing care to this nation's needy and most desperate. Alas, thanks to men like Mr. Olmsted, obtaining obstetric care at a Catholic hospital has become a dangerous game of Russian roulette.

Seem like an overreaction?  Not really, once you read some of the comments on the Fox News version of the story.

Only God has the right to end a person's life. Who is to say that the mom's life is more precious than the baby's? Maybe God wanted that unborn baby to live rather than the mom. It's not our decision, it's God's. We have to put our lives in God's hands and trust that He is Almighty and knows better than us.

And of course, one person claims, "We don't know alot about this case, but I'm sure the Bishop knows more than we do."

Not the doctors, not the patient, not the hospital staff. It's the Bishop who obviously knows best and should be trusted.