In 2010, a woman who had been 15-weeks pregnant with twins arrived at the Sierra Vista Memorial Medical Center’s emergency department after miscarrying one of the twins at home. The remaining fetus had a heartbeat. The doctor who examined her recommended that the pregnancy be terminated, given the risks, including severe hemorrhaging and infection.
The physician later recalled, “The patient and her husband were, of course, upset by the situation, but decided to proceed with the treatment.” The physician and staff then began routine preparations to complete the miscarriage. That’s when a hospital administrator intervened.
The Sierra Vista hospital had recently started a trial affiliation with a Catholic health system. That meant the hospital had to adhere to the Ethical and Religious Directives for Catholic Health Care Services (ERDs), which prohibit many reproductive health services. A hospital administrator ordered the physician to transfer the patient to avoid violating the (ERDs). The patient was sent by ambulance to the nearest non-Catholic hospital, which was 80 miles away, and after a dangerous hour and a half drive, she finally received the care she needed.
Fortnight For Freedom (June 21 – July 4th) is a campaign by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops to, among other things, maintain the Bishops’ ability to impose Catholic restrictions on health care needed by everyone in a community. The result will be more stories like the one in Sierra Vista, where a Catholic hospital can refuse to provide medically-sound health care to women facing devastating pregnancy related emergencies. Religious “freedom” for Catholic hospitals means we will see more stories like that of Tamesha Means in Michigan. A Catholic Hospital refused to treat her miscarriage, sending her away bleeding and in pain twice with no information about the health care options available to her until she eventually began to deliver in the waiting room.
The insistence of the US Conference of Catholic Bishops on their right to religious freedom means women needing reproductive health care are placed in danger.
Because of the Bishops’ Directives, women seeking care at Catholic hospitals aren’t able to receive comprehensive reproductive healthcare. They’re denied contraceptives, tubal ligations, and emergency care for ectopic pregnancies and miscarriages.
There are grave consequences for women when the Bishops are allowed to impose their religious beliefs on the health care of an entire community.
We join the Coalition for Liberty and Justice and the Catholics for Choice in raising awareness about the real-life impact of Bishops’ campaign to elevate their right to religious freedom over the medical needs of women.
by Christianna Silva