The Catholic hospital abortion story is misleading

The Catholic hospital abortion story is misleading

I’ve heard more information on that story about so-called “live-birth abortions” at Catholic hospitals. It appears that the columnist for the Illinois Leader got the story wrong and the original source is unhappy with how his story has been characterized. This is what I’ve learned:

  • We’re talking about babies who are anacephalic (i.e. have not developed most of their brain), and have no chance of living outside the womb.

  • They’re delivered early, in some circumstances, to give the mother relief from various complications.

  • They are NOT delivered until they would be (otherwise) viable. They die, not because of the premature delivery, but because they were going to
    die whenever they were delivered.

  • The purpose of the delivery is NOT to kill the child, and it’s misleading to call the procedure an abortion.

Most orthodox Catholic bioethicists would agree that none of this is immoral. This is not to say that these Catholic hospitals are free from taint. There are Catholic hospitals that have abortionists on staff and do perform actual abortions, but it does not do our cause any good to use false information to accomplish a good end. Let’s leave that to CBS.

Written by
Domenico Bettinelli
18 comments
  • Well, that’s more reasonable, then.  I know of people who had labor inductions pretty early on, but it was really due to some really bad complications for the mothers… sometimes the baby can be saved, and sometimes not.

    I made a comment over at the afterabortion blog – all pregnancies terminate eventually.  The question is what one does to terminate them.

    As for your last paragraph, I assume you’re referring to abortionists who also deliver babies at Catholic hospitals, but do their abortions elsewhere?  Or are there actual, factual abortions going on in the hospitals?  I would like to know.  I would save my outrage for that.

  • Yes, and no. I pointed some of this out to someone who had attempted to use the story as an opportunity to bash the “Novus Ordo sect.”

    I pointed out that in an earlier story, the same author indicated that a USCCB committee had actually found fault with the procedure (although I have not been able to track down that document).

    Where to Draw the Line? Prenatal Ethics.

    It is not entirely clear that there is a good reason to induce early in these cases. That said, the Illinois Leader article was misleading, at best.

  • Thank you very much for posting this – the original story was so disturbing – I was fairly sure there was more to it but I have not had time to dig into it myself.

    MS

  • If you would, please tell us how you know the original source is unhappy, and how you learned “what I20:45:10
    Jill,

    The purpose of the procedure is to deliver the child. By your reasoning, we should force the mother to keep the child in her womb indefinitely so the child won’t die.

    Are you saying you would agree to deprive your dying grandmother of oxygen, food, and hydration to speed up her death?sidency to protest and his prominent physician father made a complaint to Bernardin but nothing happened. The kid lost a year out of his education before finding another slot to complete his residency.
    Sandra Miesel | Email | Homepage | 09.15.04 – 4:43 pm | #”

  • Annie,

    I believe I answered your question above. Tom Szyszkiewicz was the original source, he has written for my magazine, and he communicated his unhappiness about the results. And you can read his original articles at those links above.

    As for what you would do, that’s admirable and certainly your privilege. But it would not be immoral for a woman who is suffering severe complications, such as those Seamus mentions, to undergo such an induced labor.

  • Seamus,

    One only has 750 words per column to make one’s point. 

    Re: your query on, “anek]]>
    jill@jillstanek.net
    http://www.jillstanek.net
    24.14.218.42
    2004-09-16 17:47:06
    2004-09-16 21:47:06
    Domenico,

    I am in frequent communication with Tom Szyszkiewicz, even a few times today.  He has not relayed to me what you are saying.  You are gossiping.

    I am honestly amazed by the things you say, how you are twisting my words, how you are defending this procedure. 

    You say, “By your reasoning, we should force the mother to keep the child in her womb indefinitely so the child wonfaith in untrustworthy administrators such as these, and will the Bishops change the wording of this “directive” to eliminate the loophole? And will it finally do something about the “bad judgement aand arrogance” of some bishops in this deteriorating country of ours?

    Lastly, while it seems Ms. Stanek’s column had an “inaccuracy,” this was not “off the mark” per Tom’s own words. I hope and pray that Mr. Bettinelli can admit to Ms. Stanek that his statement that her column was “misleading” and his broadbrush characterization of Tom’s “unhappiness” were both in fact,  misleading and/or inaccurate, even if unintentionally, and make amends.

  • Domenico,

    I am in frequent communication with Tom Szyszkiewicz, even a few times today.  He has not relayed to me what you are saying.  You are gossiping.

    I am honestly amazed by the things you say, how you are twisting my words, how you are defending this procedure. 

    You say, “By your reasoning, we should force the mother to keep the child in her womb indefinitely so the child wons I quoted Dr. Tom Hilgers, in those cases where early induction of a healthy child after viability is justified. The purpose of the procedure is not simply to deliver the child, but to prematurely end the pregnancy and, thereby, bring the child to a premature death.

    If anyone has further questions, I’d be more than happy to try to answer them.

  • Jill Stanek is a hero. She knows what she’s talking about. She was brave enough to put her job on the line to expose the evils of abortion. I am a maternity nurse in a Catholic hospital and she is my role model.

  • Dom, I thank you for your answer. That said, I must comment that hypertension in the mother is not a “severe complication.” “Mental health” also doesn’t cut it, as it is horribly reminiscent of the broadest definition given that phrase by Doe v. Bolton, the companion Supreme Court case to Roe v. Wade, which opened up abortion on demand for any reason at any time up to the day of delivery, even if the mother merely told her doctor she’d “go out of her mind ‘cause I have too many kids already!” or “I’m too old for this kid!”  (adoption of course would be the obvious moral answer to that problem).

    Sandra Miesel’s Mark Shea blog comment and Mr. Szyszkiewicz’s here, both have indicated that our worst fears are confirmed: this is an accurate assessment of the state of a couple of our Catholic hospitals.

    A priest friend of mine had this to say, “We [the Church] put our faith in untrustworthy [hospital] administrators who take control, misrepresent the Church and set policies that disgrace us. “

    Maybe true, but the real issue now is: will the Church remove its faith in untrustworthy administrators such as these, and will the Bishops change the wording of this “directive” to eliminate the loophole? And will it finally do something about the “bad judgement aand arrogance” of some bishops in this deteriorating country of ours?

    Lastly, while it seems Ms. Stanek’s column had an “inaccuracy,” this was not “off the mark” per Tom’s own words. I hope and pray that Mr. Bettinelli can admit to Ms. Stanek that his statement that her column was “misleading” and his broadbrush characterization of Tom’s “unhappiness” were both in fact,  misleading and/or inaccurate, even if unintentionally, and make amends.

  • I am not going to admit to something that isn’t true. I know what I was told and what I have read.

    And I can’t believe you think I have to be convinced that mental health is not an adequate health exception. I know that. Anyone who has read or heard anything I’ve written or said on the subject knows I know that. I am as strongly pro-life as you can be.

    I’m also not an apologist for these Catholic hospitals. They do have other problems. But for Stanek to accuse the hospitals of leaving babies to “die in hospital soiled utility rooms, or drowned in buckets of water, or sealed to suffocate in biohazard bags,” without evidence that they are doing so is just wrong.

  • Dom,

    I know there are hospitals and abortion clinics that leave babies to die in hospital soiled utility rooms, or they drown them in buckets of water, or they seal them to die in biohazard bags.  I did not accuse the aforementioned hospitals of that, if you read my piece.  But it is done.  I know from personal experience.  And I asked Loyola for its policy on aftercare of these infants, and it refused.  That leaves the hospital wide open for speculation. 

    That said, so what if Loyola and Providence have a “comfort care” policy to rock the babies they have just aborted until they die?  Does that make the act they have just committed acceptable to you?

    We have to stay on task with the discussion.  The discussion is about the act of abortion.

    I appreciate Annie B’s comments.  She has hit the status on the head.  Now that this is all out in the open, thanks to great research done by Tom, who got very telling comments and admissions from the parties involved before they circled their wagons, the real issue now is: “Will the Church remove its faith in untrustworthy administrators such as these, and will the Bishops change the wording of this control while she is pregnant. This CAN be a life threatening emergency. Uncontrollably high blood pressure is also a symptom of preecclampsia (toxemia of pregnancy.) When this become ecclampsia, women have seizures. Women and their babies have died from this. Sometimes it can be successfully treated. (One doctor has a theory that it can be prevented by a diet very high in protein and B vitamins, and he has had success in his clinic in treating it this way.) But some women do seem to be genetically predisposed towards this condition.  It is very rare for this condition to be so serious that terminating a pregnancy before viability is necessary to save the mother’s life, but babies are delivered prematurely because of it. 

    Even when one’s heart is in the right place, it is good to get the facts straight.  And I invite Alicia please to correct me if anything I said is not quite right.

    Annie, were you the woman who said it would be worth it to you to see your baby’s face before it died? That was a beautiful comment and it is how I think most women would feel..especially after they got the chance to do it with the right kind of support. 
    Susan Peterson

  • Point well-taken, Dom, about the mental health comment, it was more generally presented than to you specifically. I should have been clearer in my comment, I apologize. But I sense a lot of upset emotion on your part, assuming I “think” something about you when I really just misspoke myself. We all do that sometimes.

    In a similar vein, I did not say or imply you were an apologist for these hospitals either.

    Seamus is correct: Ms. Stanek did not write that the Catholic hospitals were casting babies “aside to die in hospital soiled utility rooms, or drowned in buckets of water, or sealed to suffocate in biohazard bags.” That sentence referred to the law passed to protect this from happening. Even Mr. Szyszkiewicz wrote that “Their story on the column claims that Jill & I said the hospitals were delivering the children and then killing them. Neither of us ever said that.”

    And when asked for corroboration of what the hospitals DID do with the babies after early induced labor, Ms. Stanek wrote that “Loyola refused upon my request to provide an aftercare policy for these babies, and Providence would give me nothing but a newspaper editorial from Anchorage Daily News.”

    Mr. Szyszkiewicz was quoted in her column saying that “spokespersons for the other nine“standard viability” (as I called it) converts the situation into one of “indirect” killing instead of “direct” killing, notwithstanding the specific circumstances of the particular baby. Question how “standard viability” converts the situation from “direct” to “indirect”? (“Standard viability” refers to the point at which the “average” baby becomes viable given the available medical technology). (Would inducement of an overdue pregnancy be “direct” or “indirect”? How is the gestational stage morally relevant?).

  • Hi, Susan, actually I didn’t, it was Josephine and here she is with two other posts at our blog, clearing that up!

    “I was corrected(not online). Hydrocephalic babies are the ones who have the brain damage due to water pressing on brain tissue and is similiar to the condition where the is a hernia in the diaphram as they both take up space(the water on the brain and the intestines in the lungs and heart) to a point where they can prevent the organs from developing. Anecephalic babies rarely need cathetors but do need helmets and other protective gear to protect thier exposed skull/brain tissue/ or the sac that hold the brain. The head can be flat and unprotected which can lead to difficult delivery and damage to whatever is left of the brain.
    josephine | Email | 09.17.04 – 9:38 pm | #

    ————————————————————————————————————————

    “I know some docs prefer c-section in order to give the baby a better chance. It is not true they only have a brain stem. There can be different levels of anacephaly where there is plenty of brain to function. Hydrocephaly, anacephaly, spinal bifida and herniated diaphram(along with other organ imperfections) are all recomended for abortions or atleast genetic councelling. I have access to my sister(who is studying to be an x-ray tech) and others who work here in nashville where they operate on babies with some of these conditions with success at Vandy. Im sure if you went to the website they would have tons of info. My son had his hernia surgery there not but a couple of months ago and came out without even a visable stitch. I was stunned. Those folks are great. His was all done inside with cameras and micro tools.. Just a little piece of tape where they glued him back together.
    josephine | Email | 09.17.04 – 9:39 pm | #”

    My other general thought is, John Cougar Mellencamp was born with spina bifida. They operated on him and he was fine. Look what he’s accomplished. I wish these doctors and “baby-euthanasia” folks would look HIM in the eye and tell him that they think they’re right.

    Susan, I agree that it is very rare for severe hypertension and its other dangers to be treated only by terminating the pregnancy. Proper eating, mild exercise, etc. can moderate/control the problem in non-pregnant and pregnant people. My point was that we must not risk opening up all hypertension broadly as the reason to induce early and possibly terminate the baby’s life in the process.

    Yes, Susan, I was the woman who said that about seeing my baby’s face. Thanks. I must add that, having aborted what turned out to be my only daughter 25 years ago, I’d still go through now with delivering my baby even to watch him/her die within days, even if I had absolutely no support whatsoever. That’s just me. I know now, that I would still have God’s support and that would be enough for me, as I trust He would send me help in the form of caring people who I know now do exist, even if they don’t know me yet. There is NOTHING that would ever convince me to abort ever again, if I was ever able to have a child again.

  • I linked to this discussion from the Fiat Mihi blog. I’ll basically reproduce here what I posted there. Due to time constraints, I haven’t re-edited my post to flow properly. Here’s the post:

    But the child dies of the anencephaly, not the induced labour.

    The discussion raises interesting points: (1) Should the baseline for “viability” be the number of weeks of gestation at which a “standard” baby could be maintained, given the state of medical technology in the community, or the circumstances of the “specific” baby? (2) Does the early inducement of a “specifically” non-viable fetus constitute “direct” as opposed to “indirect” killing?

    One consequence of your analysis: A woman with a life-threatening pregnancy at thirty weeks and a healthy, viable baby would be allowed to undergo induced labour to save her life, while a similarly-situated mother with a baby suffering from anencephaly could die simply because of the child’s anencephaly.

    It seems this calls for a classic double-effect analysis, or more specifically an analysis whether this is even a double effect situation.

    I should clarify: When I wrote the inducement of a “specifically” non-viable unborn child, I meant inducement at a gestational stage where a “standard” baby would survive. Obviously, inducement at 16 weeks for example, given the current state of medicine, constitutes an instance of direct killing.

    Another interesting question: If the pregnancy involving the anancephalic baby went beyond the ordinary gestation period, would the mother then be allowed to induce labour on the grounds that she has a right to a normally functioning body? We are not then dealing with “early” inducement. Is inducement of an “overdue” pregnancy morally distinct? If “yes”, “Why?”

    Maybe the real issue: What is due to the child from the mother?

  • Apologies, but I think there can be far too much speculation on the specifics of individual cases and hypothetical situations.
    The bottom line in treating cases of anencephaly, renal agenesis or similar fatal handicaps is that one should treat them as normal pregnancies unless there are extenuating circumstances that would require intervention whether or not the child had the fatal handicap. It really is that simple.
    You do not induce labor for a woman at 23 weeks if the baby is healthy, unless there are grave, specific reasons the mother needs it. The same standard should apply when a woman is carrying a child who has a fatal handicap—period.

  • I have cannibalized a couple of my posts from the Fiat Mihi site, to reproduce here:

    If inducement constitutes “direct” killing, then it can never be justified. The double effect doesn’t enter into it.

    If inducement is “indirect” killing, then one engages in a double effect analysis.

    As I understand it, “proportionality” relates to the last branch of the “double effect” test. The implied premise is that early inducement equals “indirect” killing. Yet, in such a case, could not inducement at 16 weeks also equal “indirect” killing, which to me is an insane conclusion.

    It seems that the USCCB is saying that the gestational arrival of “standard viability” (as I called it) converts the situation into one of “indirect” killing instead of “direct” killing, notwithstanding the specific circumstances of the particular baby. Question how “standard viability” converts the situation from “direct” to “indirect”? (“Standard viability” refers to the point at which the “average” baby becomes viable given the available medical technology). (Would inducement of an overdue pregnancy be “direct” or “indirect”? How is the gestational stage morally relevant?).

  • The USCCB pro-life office sent me two documents explaining its position on early induction of labor.

    One is the “NCBC Statement on Early Induction of Labor” and is at: http://www.ncbcenter.org/press/04-03-11-EarlyInduction.html

    It states, in part: “Operations, treatments, and medications that have as their direct purpose the cure of a proportionately serious pathological condition of a pregnant woman are permitted when they cannot be safely postponed until the unborn child is viable, even if they will result in the death of the unborn child….
    However, early induction of an anencephalic child when there is no serious pathology of the mother which is being directly treated is not morally licit, emotional distress notwithstanding.  Early induction of labor before term (37 weeks) to relieve emotional distress hastens the death of the child as a means of achieving this presumed good effect and unjustiafiably deprives the child of the good of gestation…. Lastly, induction of labor before term performed simply for the reason that the child has a lethal anomaly is direct abortion.”

    The other document is “Moral Principles Concerning Infants With Anencephaly,” and it also is one page.  I got this as a pdf document and don’t know how to hyperlink but will forward it to anyone who writes to me at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)

    It states, in part: “Some have attempted to argue that anencephalic children may be prematurely delivered, even when this would be inappropriate for other children.  This argument is based on the opinion that because of their apparent lack of cognitive function and in view of the probable brevity of their lives, these infants are not the subject of human rights or at least have lives of less meaning or purpose than others.  Doubts about the human dignity of the anencephalic infant, however, have no solid ground, and the benefit of any doubt must be in the child’s favor….

    “The ‘Ethical and Religious Directives for Catholic Health Care Services,”… Directive 47… states:

    “‘Operations, treatments and medications that have as their direct purpose the cure of a proportionately serious pathological condition of a pregnant woman are permitted when they cannot be safely postponed until the unborn child is viable, even if they will result in the death of the unborn child.’

    “In other words, it is permitted to treat directly a pathology of the mother even when this has the unintended side effect of causing the death of her child, if this pathology left untreated would have life-threatening effects on both mother and child, but it is not permitted to terminate or gravely risk the child’s life as a means of treating or protecting the mother.

    “Hence, it is clear that before ‘viability’ it is never permitted to terminate the gestation of an anencephalic child as the means of avoiding psychological or physical risks to the mother.  Nor is such termination permitted after ‘viability’ if early delivery endangers the child’s life due to complication of prematurity…. Anencephaly is not a pathology of the mother, but of the child, and terminating her pregnancy cannot be a treatment of a pathology she does not have.  Only if the complications of the pregnancy result in a life-threatening pathology of the mother, may be treatment of this pathology be permitted even at a risk to the child, and then only if the child’s death is not a means to treating the mother.”

    Regards,
    Jill Stanek

  • I can’t see how induction of an early birth is “indirect”; I submit it is “direct”.

    There are times it may be justified. For example, if maternal care justiifed under the double effect (causing indirect harm to the baby) is to be undertaken, arguably early induction for a baby may be beneficial and theraputic for the baby. In that sense, the “direct” induction constitutes medical treatment for the baby. Also, if the mother’s death would kill the baby, then “direct” induction of labour to save the mother is also theraputic for the baby.

    This stuff tends to be case specific – i.e., the general principles must be applied to a specific context.

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