Nearly four years ago I got the stomach flu. I got it from my husband, who got it from our 19 month old kid, who likely picked it up in the nursery. I wouldn’t be writing about it, except for the fact that I was 8 months pregnant at the time. While sick I became dehydrated, couldn’t keep down food, and late one night I started having contractions. I called my OB who advised us to go to an emergency room.
I called my visiting teacher to watch our kid until my mother in law could come get him, and my husband drove me to the hospital. I was admitted sent up to the maternity ward where they hooked me up to an IV and a machine to monitor my contractions. Hours passed and nothing changed. After I was sufficiently rehydrated they sent me home.
Although nothing really happened, the night was stressful because of what might have happened. There are so many ways that night could have ended, each possibility worse than the one before.
What makes me think about all this now is that the ER we went to was St. Joseph’s Medical Center in Phoenix. Last November a pregnant woman was admitted to that same hospital with a deadly heart condition. She was in no state to be transferred to another hospital, and the
treatment for her condition was terminating the pregnancy. In other words, the only way to save this woman’s life was for an abortion to be performed in a Catholic hospital. The Nun on the ethics committee who agreed to allow the procedure has been publicly rebuked
and notified of her automatic excommunication.
On what the hospital should have done:
James J. Walter, professor of bioethics at Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles, a Catholic university, said that is a tough argument to make. He said a pregnancy may be terminated only in limited, indirect circumstances, such as uterine cancer, in which the cancer treatment takes the life of the fetus.
Catholic teaching, he said, is that a pregnancy cannot be terminated as a means to an end of saving the life of a mother who is suffering from a different condition.
Asked if the church position prefers the mother and child to die, rather than sparing the life of one of them, Walters said the hope is that both would survive.
So here I am, retroactively terrified. Among all the horrors my night at the hospital could have produced I never once thought that one of them would have been death by willful neglect. I was sick, and pregnant in that same hospital. Even though this woman’s life was saved, the people who saved her life are being punished rather than honored- what will they and their peers do the next time they have to make a choice like this?
I know that many LDS people are happy to align themselves with the larger predominately Catholic Pro-life movement, even while those same people would balk at the idea that saving the life of the mother isn’t a good enough reason to perform an abortion. Cases like this serve as a stark reminder that all too often our political bedfellows frequently have wildly divergent end goals from our own.
I know that I will never again willingly set foot in a Catholic hospital while pregnant.