ACLU reports on Catholic hospitals' threat to women's health | Arkansas Blog

Thursday, May 5, 2016

ACLU reports on Catholic hospitals' threat to women's health

Posted By on Thu, May 5, 2016 at 11:01 AM

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Risks to women's health that Catholic hospitals impose as a matter of church directives are the subject of an American Civil Liberties Union report released today, a report that includes the case of a woman in Northwest Arkansas.

"Health Care Denied: Patients and Physicians Speak Out about Catholic Hospitals and the Threat to Women's Health and Lives" uses data provided by MergerWatch, which is tracking the impact of the national trend of hospital mergers with Catholic facilities that deny abortion under all circumstances and all forms of birth control, such as tubal ligation. From the introduction:

In the spring of 2015, Dr. AuTumn Davidson was called in to the University of Illinois Hospital in the early hours of the morning to perform an emergency abortion. The patient was 19 years old and about 19 weeks pregnant, with a subchorionic hemorrhage causing heavy bleeding. The patient had sought emergency care at two different Catholic hospitals during the previous week, but neither would perform an abortion — even though she was bleeding so heavily that one of the hospitals gave her a blood transfusion before sending her home.

“She told us that someone at the second hospital had whispered to her that if she wanted an abortion, she could go to another hospital,” Dr. Davidson recalled. “When we admitted her, her hemoglobin was at 6 instead of at 11 or 12, where it should have been. She and her partner just kept saying that they thought she was going to die.”

Unfortunately, this patient’s experience is not unique. 

Other incidents of terrible health care received at dogma-ruled Catholic hospitals:

* A woman whose water broke at 18 weeks, ending the viability of the pregnancy. A hospital operated by Mercy Health Partners in Muskegon, Mich., gave the woman two Tylenol and sent her home without telling her there virtually no way she would give birth to a healthy baby. She returned twice, bleeding and in severe pain. It wasn't until she went into labor that she received care. The baby died within hours.

*  A woman whose water broke at 20 weeks and who learned from fetal tests that the baby was too compromised to survive. A Catholic hospital in Illinois refused to induce delivery, though waiting for the miscarriage to complete could have exposed her to infection and hemorrhaging. The hospital turned her away several times over the next five weeks; she was 27 weeks pregnant with a nonviable fetus and hemorrhaging when the hospital finally induced delivery. The baby died shortly after delivery. Stories similar to this have occurred around the country

click to enlarge JENNAFER NORRIS
  • JENNAFER NORRIS
The Arkansas woman, Jennafer Norris of Rogers, had suffered from preclampsia during her first two pregnancies. Last year, she and her husband discovered she was pregnant again after their birth control failed. At eight weeks, she recognized the signs of preclampsia, a serious complication that hikes blood pressure and threatens organ damage. She was confined to bed rest. At 30 weeks, she was admitted to Mercy Hospital with excruciating headaches, high blood pressure and blurred vision: her doctors feared she was at risk for stroke. Fearing for her health should she become pregnant again, she asked that the doctors perform a tubal ligation during her scheduled C-section. The Catholic hospital: No way. She was too ill to be transferred to another hospital. The hospital's decision meant that to protect her health, she will have to undergo a second operation in the future at a different hospital. Jason Norris called it "shocking when a hospital that is open to the public, and takes government funding, can cite their faith as a reason to deny you a necessary medical service." Jennafer Norris said the hospital jeopardized her life.

Here's another shocking fact: One in six hospital beds in the U.S. is in a facility that follows Catholic dogma on abortion and reproduction.

Fortunately for Little Rock, the ACLU said, the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences did not go through with a planned merger with St. Vincent Infirmary Medical Center. St. Vincent insisted that it call the shots, with a 51 percent interest. That would have been an incalculable blow not just to women but also to men seeking reproductive healthcare. 

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