In a stunning bit of hypocrisy, Catholic Health Initiatives – a non-profit that runs about 170 health facilities in 17 states – is arguing that fetuses are not people. Specifically, two fetuses involved in a wrongful death suit brought against them in Colorado.
This began on New Year’s Day 2006, when 31-year-old Lori Stodghill arrived at St. Thomas More hospital in Cañon City, CO. The seven-months-pregnant woman was short of breath and vomiting and she lost consciousness soon after her arrival. Her obstetrician, Dr. Pelham Staples (who also happened to be the OB on-call that night) was paged but he did not answer. Ms. Stodghill died from a heart attack less than an hour after she arrived at the Emergency Room. The twins she was carrying died in her womb. Her bereaved husband filed a wrongful death suit against the hospital on behalf of himself and his daughter (who was 2 at the time), charging that Dr. Staples should have at least directed the ER staff to perform an emergency C-section. An expert testified that while Lori could not in all likelihood have been saved, the babies could have been if a caesarean had been performed right away.
Catholic Health Initiatives, being the parent company of Thomas More Hospital, is the defendant in the case. For a non-profit they do remarkably well, with at least $15 billion in assets. But they maintain that all they seek to do is “nurture the healing ministry of the Church” guided by “fidelity to the Gospel.” Of course, they follow the rulings of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops in the form of the Ethical and Religious Directives of the Catholic Church. Those directives, as we well know by now, speak of the sanctity of life “from the moment of conception until death.” The Church has made quite a big deal out of this lately to the point of objecting to birth control and even cancer screenings (don’t even try to follow that “logic”).
But I guess that sanctity doesn’t extend to fetuses it was tacitly responsible for because Catholic Health’s lawyers are arguing that the Colorado court
“should not overturn the long-standing rule in Colorado that the term ‘person,’ as is used in the Wrongful Death Act, encompasses only individuals born alive. Colorado state courts define ‘person’ under the Act to include only those born alive. Therefore Plaintiffs cannot maintain wrongful death claims based on two unborn fetuses.”
Hold the phone, Catholic Health. You’re saying that those two fetuses – far enough along in their gestation to have been viable outside the womb – are not people now? Talk about your insanity level of hypocrisy! Not only that but so far, two courts have bought this: Fremont County District Court and the Colorado Court of Appeals have both upheld that argument. Yes, the Stodghills’ attorneys are appealing this case to the Colorado state Supreme Court but it is not definite that the court will even hear the case. If they don’t this could affect the state’s malpractice laws, setting a scary precedent for all pregnant women in Colorado. If it stands, all viable fetuses would now be considered not to be a person in the eyes of the law.
So it boils down to this: the Catholic Church strongly believes that life begins at conception (never mind that they didn’t always think that)… unless that might cost them damages in a lawsuit. So their strident calls for no abortion, no exceptions, not ever! only applies when they want it to apply. When it’s more convenient – and less expensive – for them, their strongly held beliefs go by the wayside. It’s all just meaningless rhetoric.