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Number of the Day

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

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[Trigger warning for misogyny, miscarriage, sexual violence, victim-blaming, and Christian supremacy.]

1 in 6. The number of US hospital patients now treated by Catholic hospitals, which "are required to adhere to the Ethical and Religious Directives for Catholic Health Care Services—archconservative restrictions issued by the 258-member U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops."
Because of the directives, doctors and nurses at Catholic-affiliated facilities are not allowed to perform procedures that the Catholic Church deems "intrinsically immoral, such as abortion and direct sterilization." Those medical personnel also cannot give rape survivors drugs to prevent pregnancy unless there is "no evidence that conception has already occurred."

...The Catholic directives involve not just abortion and birth control but ectopic pregnancies, embryonic stem cell research, in-vitro fertilization, sterilizations and more. "The problem with [the directives]," says Susan Berke Fogel, an attorney at the National Health Law Program in Los Angeles, "is about substandard care becoming rampant in the U.S., threatening women's health and women's lives."

...How did we get to the point where 258 right-wing bishops—all (supposedly) celibate male clerics—are prohibiting doctors from practicing medicine and denying women essential reproductive care? The debacle starts with anti-choice legislation. The U.S. Congress started to pass "conscience clauses" pushed by the Roman Catholic Church and anti-abortion forces in the immediate wake of the Roe v. Wade Supreme Court decision that legalized abortion in 1973. Today, these laws apply not only to physicians and nurses who oppose abortion, but to entire institutions whose "consciences" allow them to withhold medically indicated care.
You may remember, in 2006, Joe Lieberman's defense of Catholic hospitals' right to practice whatever kind of medicine they wanted because "it shouldn't take more than a short ride to get to another hospital." The practical reality, however, is this:
Kathleen Prieskorn gasped in shock as her medical nightmare began. Still reeling from the heartbreak of an earlier miscarriage, Prieskorn was three months pregnant and working as a waitress when she felt a twinge, felt a trickle down her leg and realized she was miscarrying again.

She rushed to her doctor's office, "where I learned my amniotic sac had torn," says Prieskorn, who lives with her husband in Manchester, N.H. "But the nearest hospital had recently merged with a Catholic hospital—and because my doctor could still detect a fetal heartbeat, he wasn't allowed to give me a uterine evacuation that would help me complete my miscarriage."

To get treatment, Prieskorn, who has no car, had to instead travel 80 miles to the nearest hospital that would perform the procedure—expensive to do in an ambulance, because she had no health insurance. Her doctor handed her $400 of his own cash and she bundled into the back of a cab.

"During that trip, which seemed endless, I was not only devastated, but terrified," Prieskorn remembers. "I knew that if there were complications I could lose my uterus—and maybe even my life."
In the US, that is considered an acceptable risk in order that we might indulge the religious ethics of a group of men employed by an international organization rife with institutional misogyny, homophobia, and rape apologia.

And I use the word "men" advisedly: Sister Margaret McBride was, of course, excommunicated last year for allowing, as part of a Catholic hospital's ethics committee, the termination of a pregnancy to save a woman's life.

By all means, let us continue to treat women's lives and bodies and consent and agency like so much garbage, so that we may protect the delicate sensibilities of some of the most women-hating men on the planet.
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