Excommunication in the Face of Choice

18 May

Recently, Sister Margaret McBride, a nun at a Catholic hospital in Phoenix, was excommunicated for suggesting that a woman receive an abortion. She sat on an ethics panel at the said hospital where she heard the case of a woman who was 11 weeks pregnant. The woman had pulmonary hypertension—an increase in blood pressure in the pulmonary artery, pulmonary vein, or pulmonary capillaries—and it was found that her pregnancy “carried a nearly certain risk of death,” probably because pulmonary hypertension is exacerbated by exertion (e.g. labor). The ethics panel than recommend an abortion because they could not find any other solution of saving the pregnancy while preventing the death of the mother. Sister Margaret McBride was automatically excommunicated from the Catholic Church. Bishop Thomas J. Olmstead, head of the Phoenix archdiocese, said this:

“I am gravely concerned by the fact that an abortion was performed several months ago in a Catholic hospital in this diocese. I am further concerned by the hospital’s statement that the termination of a human life was necessary to treat the mother’s underlying medical condition.

An unborn child is not a disease. While medical professionals should certainly try to save a pregnant mother’s life, the means by which they do it can never be by directly killing her unborn child. The end does not justify the means.”

What I fail to understand is why Sister Margaret McBride is suffering these consequences because she recommended a procedure that would save a woman’s life. Would the church have rather see the mother die instead of having an abortion that could save her life? Although the threat of death was a very real one, the Church would have supported the woman dying and having her fetus live. This just does not seem logical to me whatsoever. While an unborn child is not a disease—at statement that seems completely irrelevant to this argument—the pregnancy posed a significant and fatal risk to this woman’s life. Is that not enough of a reason to warrant an abortion, no matter what side you take in the pro-life, pro-choice discourse?

Do any of you have thoughts on this?

12 Responses to “Excommunication in the Face of Choice”

  1. KushielsMoon May 18, 2010 at 12:50 pm #

    You ask: Would the church have rather see the mother die instead of having an abortion that could save her life?

    Honestly, I think the answer is- yes. It seems for the Catholic church it doesn’t really matter if you die or not (especially if you’re a woman), but rather HOW you die or live. They would prefer that you die than terminate a pregnancy. As long as your death is deemed “natural,” the Catholic church doesn’t really seem to care.

  2. Eric Scheidler May 18, 2010 at 2:42 pm #

    Dena asks: “Would the church have rather see the mother die instead of having an abortion that could save her life?”

    Yes, actually. Sacrificing your life for another person is right at the heart of the Christian ethos.

    Parents always say they’d do anything for their kids — they’d die for them. That’s what this is.

    If you believe only oblivion awaits the soul, self-sacrifice can only be foolish or mad. But if you believe self-sacrifice means eternal bliss for the soul, it makes more than a little sense.

    Eric Scheidler
    Executive Director
    Pro-Life Action League

  3. Steph May 19, 2010 at 1:15 pm #

    And there you have it, folks, straight from the mouth of a big time anti-choice org. So-called “pro-life” does not value women’s lives at all.

  4. Ali May 19, 2010 at 1:17 pm #

    Sorry to say I’m not surprised by this at all…

  5. placenta sandwich May 19, 2010 at 2:50 pm #

    I’ve always wondered, if the innocent dead get to have eternal bliss, why would it be so bad to get aborted? DOING THAT FETUS A FAVOR, amirite?

  6. Megan May 19, 2010 at 11:07 pm #

    Just WOW. I’m still shaking my head in disbelief about this response. It makes a whole lot of sense, really. I guess, deep down inside, I hoped that this wasn’t the reason for anti-choicers’ anti-woman standpoint. But it is. This is why I stopped believing in a higher power a few years ago.

  7. Amistad May 19, 2010 at 11:47 pm #

    Dena asks, “Would the church have rather see the mother die instead of having an abortion that could save her life?”

    I sure hope that was a rhetorical question.

    Sister McBride is (or should I say was) a nun, and folks like her rep the Catholic church to a T. She is a woman who practically gave up all her rights for God and the church, so to suggest an idea that goes completely against what she should be advocating for is definitely going to get her ass kicked out of the church!

    Do I agree with this? (This is definitely not a rhetorical question.) HELL NO. I am pro-choice all the way, till the day I die and even beyond that. But the point is, this was a bit too extreme. Excommunication? C’mon folks, we live in 2010, get over it. It’s not like she performed the abortion herself or went around marching in a pro-life parade. Let’s look at it this way: She did wrong in the eyes of the church, and it may be deemed as unfair to everyone else around the church, but maybe she might live a better life as a civilian (hopefully a pro-life citizen at that).

  8. Nyc May 19, 2010 at 11:51 pm #

    Had this woman died, who would be around to sacrifice for her five children already in this world and the sixth since presumably, if possible, the shell of her body would be kept “alive” to preserve the fetus until it was viable?

    Pro-life people appear not to give a rat’s behind for life already in the world. The fetus must be protected — the women, the kids already born, who give’s a damn.

  9. Celigne May 20, 2010 at 12:18 am #

    Eric Scheidler may be overlooking the fact that, according to the medical staff at St. Joseph’s Hospital and Medical Center in Phoenix, there was no way to save the pregnancy. The choice was therefore between waiting for both mother and fetus to die, or aborting the fetus to save the mother’s life.

    If the rules of the Catholic Church oblige Catholic hospitals to choose the former, any pregnant woman with a serious medical condition would obviously be ill-advised to enter a Catholic hospital.

    Most westerners view stoning adulteresses to death as extreme misogyny. But at least in those cases one can point to an outraged husband. When the choice comes down to taking one life or both, the
    Catholic Church’s preference for the latter surely constitutes even more egregious misogyny, starting with Bishop Olmsted and continuing up the hierarchy.

    With any luck this incident could open the way to suing pro-lifers for false advertising.

  10. Valerie May 21, 2010 at 1:37 pm #

    So what we’ve learned is pregnant women, those who want to live anyway, indeed ARE ill-advised to visit a Catholic hospital. The Catholic church refuses to evolve, which is why educated folks abandon it. I am anxious to know what will become of Sister Margaret McBride. Hearing about this ex-communication is the very reason I recalled Ms. Knox’s film, and found this website.

  11. placenta sandwich May 21, 2010 at 5:41 pm #

    Oooh, so apparently Mr. Eric Scheidler’s zeal to push pregnant women to die for their pregnancies is NOT supported by Catholic doctrine, however fucked up the latter may be. This guy says that the Archdiocese’s “facts” on abortion punishment are incorrect: http://www.rhrealitycheck.org/blog/2010/05/20/diocese-phoenix-maligns-catholic-errs-canon

  12. Dena June 1, 2010 at 9:46 am #

    I’ve been so happy seeing all of the comments, I would have responded earlier, but have been traveling internationally and have been thinking about Mr.Eric Scheidler’s comment for sometime.

    I do think Mr. Scheidler is completely overlooking the fact that the doctors could do nothing else. Sure, the fetus’s life is important, but so is the mother’s. Her life is a life too. If one is so pro-life, shouldn’t the life of the mother be worthwhile too? It seems pretty apparent that the Catholic Church is not the proper resource for women who are facing the conflict of whether or not to pursue an abortion. Sister Margaret McBride should not be punished for the actions she took, I think she should instead be rewarded. She aided in saving a woman’s life, a woman who would have left behind a family and others if the life of her fetus and been chosen over hers. In fact, from the way it sounds, she AND the fetus probably would have died, so what would be the point of saving the fetus?

    The Catholic Church needs to evolve and recognise that women face conflicts when it comes to their bodies and reproductive rights. They also need to realise that in cases of life or death, it’s more logical to save the mother and not her unborn child, fetus, whatever you wish to call it.

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