In response to a comment on Feministe, which asserted: I don’t think any of the Catholics in question really, truly believe that if a pregnant woman’s life is in danger because of her pregnancy, she then deserves to die. That’s really kind of a ridiculous thing to say.
Well, yes, it is kind of a ridiculous thing to say – it’s both absurd and evil.
But it’s true – and not just of Catholics. There is a strand of thinking, and many of them have been arguing publicly over the last couple of days about this, that if a woman is going to die if she doesn’t have an abortion, she should die. They really, truly believe that a pregnant woman with the choice of abortion or death deserves death.
The discussion here on What’s wrong with the world illustrates this, with both Catholics and Protestants defending as a general good that idea that death is better for a pregnant woman.
But I think the reason they argue this way, positively in favor of death for the women and against life-saving abortions, is because for them death isn’t quite real – or the women who are dying.
Sister McBride probably believes quite strongly that abortion is wrong. Were we to discuss this issue in any normal circumstance, we’d probably have a massive argument. But she works in a hospital: she belongs to an order who care for the sick. For her, the decision to provide an abortion wasn’t, as it is to these religious people arguing that she should have let the woman die, a matter of airy theoretical bloodless law, but a real woman who was really dying. And faced with that reality, Sister McBride chose life.
I am absolutely certain that neither Gerard Nadal nor Bishop Olmsted has ever in his life been faced with a decision of such moral magnitude. For him, the death of a woman in pregnancy is something unreal and distant, a halo and an odor of sanctity.
“Must then a Christ die in every generation to save those that have no imagination?” Shaw asked, and the answer always seems to be, horribly, yes. But worse than that: for Nadal and his ilk, Christ must die in childbirth in front of them, before they can see they’re hammering in the nails.
Gerard Nadal, affronted by the woman not only not dying, but not being made invisible as she dies, claims he has written to the accrediting body for the hospital to say that he would prefer next time a deathly-ill pregnant woman is brought in to a Catholic hospital, she is left to die and there is no indecent publicity about the Catholic Church mandating her death.
Girls as young as nine have been made pregnant by rape: the pregnancy would itself kill them: if Catholic doctrine mandates that Catholic doctors and nurses are under threat of excommunication if they perform or are associated with a life-saving abortion, those doctors and nurses are at risk of choosing between excommunication and allowing a patient to live.
The spiritual wellbeing of those doctors and nurses is rightly the concern of the Catholic Church, which ought properly to advocate that no Catholic interested in medicine shall provide health care to any girl or woman: but the physical and mental wellbeing of the patients they care for is the concern of the secular authorities and the professional medical associations that maintain medical ethics.
For St Joseph’s Hospital and Medical Center in Phoenix in particular, where it is clear the Diocese of Phoenix is attempting to ensure that in future, dying pregnant women are left to die without being offered life-saving abortions, either they must cease to become a hospital with an emergency room to which dying patients may be taken, or they must cease to define themselves as a Catholic hospital.
Father John Ehrich, who has expressed publicly and very definitely that the woman whose life was saved ought to have been allowed to die, ought not to be allowed to pronounce on “medical ethics” for any accredited hospital.