Your Religion, My Body….

There has been another attack on a Planned Parenthood clinic–this time, in Colorado. I’ve never quite understood how ostensibly “pro life” men (and they are almost always white Christian men) justify killing for life, but however they understand their Deities to compel these acts of domestic terrorism, their incidence has been growing since the release of the doctored Planned Parenthood tapes.

Ironically, these murderous attacks are far less effective at limiting abortions than the considerably more mundane and seemingly inexorable consolidation of hospitals around the country.

For example, the experience of women needing medical care in Michigan is increasingly being replicated throughout the U.S.

In October, the ACLU and the ACLU of Michigan filed a federal lawsuit on behalf of their members against Trinity Health Corporation, one of the largest Catholic health systems in the country, for its repeated and systematic failure to provide women experiencing pregnancy complications with appropriate emergency abortions as required by federal law.

In response to the lawsuit, the hospital submitted a brief arguing that state and federal law allow Trinity to “refuse to allow abortions to be performed on hospital premises,” in the context of emergency miscarriage treatment when the woman’s life or health is at risk.

Trinity is legally exempt from having to perform elective abortions. But emergency situations such as those that triggered the ACLU’s lawsuit are another matter; indeed,  refusing to provide emergency care in these situations is medical malpractice. (I couldn’t find any information in a cursory search, but I would be surprised if doctors refusing to adhere to a medical standard of care in such situations aren’t being sued.)

The policy question is simple, although the appropriate resolution is anything but.

Virtually all hospitals depend for their existence upon federal dollars. Those dollars come from taxpayers of all religions and none. Are such institutions entitled to deny people medically appropriate care on the basis of their own religious doctrine? The question is gaining urgency as more and more of the nation’s hospitals have become part of Catholic health-care systems–currently, 10 of the 25 largest hospital systems in the U.S. are Catholic. As the ACLU’s Reproductive Rights project newsletter noted

We know, for example, that the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, which sets the rules for all Catholic hospitals, has said that its hospitals should let a woman die rather provide an emergency abortion. The bishops made their policy crystal-clear when a Catholic hospital in Phoenix defied the bishops’ rules and saved a woman’s life by providing an abortion. The bishops excommunicated a nun who was on the committee that approved the abortion, and the hospital was stripped of its Catholic status.

There are plenty of doctrinal questions raised by such examples, but those are matters for internal Catholic debate. The question for the rest of us is the same question that is raised in other conflicts pitting civic equality and access to public services against the religious beliefs of people claiming their faith exempts them from treating others as they would wish to be treated–as autonomous persons entitled to make their own moral decisions.

That question is: at what point do the obligations of citizenship in a diverse nation that celebrates civic equality override the “sincerely held religious beliefs”of those who believe they are entitled to be more equal than others?


  1. Withdraw federal support $$. I realize there will be a void in healthcare for a while but nature abhors a vacuum. It is totally wrong to give them our tax dollars while imposing religious rule in their healthcare systems.

  2. There is also the option of avoiding Catholic hospitals in these emergencies; even if you have to go to a “county” hospital for emergency care. Other patients can offer support by avoiding these sanctimonious businesses (and they have all become basically businesses) to cut down on their income. Hit them in their wallets to get their undivided attention!

    My daughter is alive today because she could legally have a theraputic abortion 35 years ago. The fetus died at 2 months, was not tested and discovered till past 5 months. By that time it was a severely infected, rotting bit of tissue which had seriously infected my daughter making for a life threatening situation.

    Six years ago my 24 year old granddaughter with a recent history of a possibly fatal seizure condition became pregnant. She opted to try to carry her baby girl to term but died alone having multiple seizures at 5 months. By the time her roommate found her body; she was covered in blood from chewing her tongue and inside of her mouth; she had swollen with gasses and was a mottled blue color. Unrecognizable at her viewing by all of us who love her. Ugly; isn’t it? She made her choice, losing her broke our hearts but it was her choice as provided by law.

    This condition, and worse, can and does happen when women are FORCED to carry life-threatening pregnancies. Some of you readers have read my granddaughter’s story before; well, read it again. Others who are not familiar with it; learn something of real life and death situations in these instances and decide…do you want your wife, daughter, mother, aunt, cousin, girlfriend or a friend to end their life this way? Trinity Health Corporation and dozens of other hospitals – and those who have closed and want to continue closing Planned Parenthood Clinics – have and do and will continue to cause these ugly deaths. Or worse situation if they try to abort themselves. There is a reason for that specific federal law regarding emergency abortions. My granddaughter was allowed to make her own choice; others have had it forced on them due to the pious objections, primarily by men, to refuse to provide what is often life-or-death health care.

    Killing women seeking help at these clinics, killing staff members, police and others trying to protect them, others who happen to be in the crowd is NOT PRO-LIFE…they are simply murderers armed with weapons who kill strangers. This must stop!

  3. Ava and JoAnn are so right. It is all about the money. And if anyone thinks that these life and death issues would not apply to you, just keep in mind that Catholic hospitals do not abide by end of life directives. Same bunch of bishops made that rule too.
    For a real life view of the workings and true priorities of the Catholic church in America I recommend the movie Spotlight. It was all about the money.

  4. If only there was a way to stop the flow of tax dollars to these hospitals that want to take our tax dollars and then tell us what the game rules are.

  5. Well, the news channels available way up here say that GOP Presidential hopeful Marco Rubio says when there is a conflict between what he considers to be MY law and American Constitutional/Civil law, MINE (MEIN?) TRUMPS (excuse my cursing…I usually try to set a better example for my creation) over that of mere mortals. I gather he’s not alone among others in the clown car (there I go again!) in believing that, at least until the Iowa caucus is over. One of them will be taking an oath invoking ME to that effect.

    As the song goes: “I should be happy but all I do is cry”. I really try to stay on the upper side of the wall of separation that Sheila insists on but which others think was created by my own opponent way down below where global warming is undisputed science as well as religious doctrine. But sometimes not even I can help MYSELF.

  6. The perp in Colorado Springs is a crazy, a murderer and a terrorist. Any other thoughts in his demented mind are irrelevant. He took advantage of our NRA entertainment network to obtain the deadliest of killing machines and inflicted all of the damage he could on society.

    He’s a creation of not only our extremist religious culture but also our extremist killing machine culture, our extremist political entertainment culture and our extremist I am everything, you are nothing, social culture.

    We are reaping what we’ve sown.

  7. From Sheila:

    “The question is: at what point do the obligations of citizenship in a diverse nation that celebrates civic equality override the “sincerely held religious beliefs ” of those who believe they are entitled to be more equal than others.”

    Based on the present state of affairs, in my opinion, that “point” will be reached when it’s too late. We are now seeing a step up of threats and attacks by KKK/Neo-Nazi groups around the country and probably will see, much sooner than later, attacks in the U.S. by ISIS.

    The “U.S.S. Ship of Fools” is on a course of disaster. Two weeks ago, I participated in a discussion group at Murray Hill Branch of the public library system here in Jacksonville.

    The library’s poster read: “Please join us for a discussion of the gripping, eye-opening recounting of the sinking of the Lusitania, “Dead Wake: The Last Crossing of the Lusitania by New York Times bestselling author Erik Larson.

    What can be learned from this tragedy one hundred years later?”

    Unanimous answer by our discussion group: “Denial can really hurt and in the case of the Lusitania, it can also kill you.”

    I would ad, the first thing we could do, and probably won’t, would be do to quit attempting to communicate on religious grounds when the underlying problem is anti-Semitism, racism, homophobia, anti-Muslim et al.

    That would, at the least, be a starter toward some realistic hope for the U.S..

  8. This shooting is just one of a long series of awfulness that will continue, but if you think about it, it’s a mess that was designed to come out this way (no conspiracy intended). Give everyone guns who wants them, so you make shooting an easy option. Add in Rush and other screaming demagogues who subtly encourage violence toward people with whom they disagree, thus approving the removal of any constraints of civilization. Then bring in lonely, isolated and confused persons who surround themselves with the fearful and vindictive media, and stir. Someone will get the idea that you need to shoot people who have been demonized. They think that they are doing “God’s will”.

  9. Stuart,

    “……it’s a mess that was designed to come out this way (no conspiracy intended)”

    You’re right. It’s called telepathy. That way there is no written proof of a conspiracy. Nothing is written.

    The Nazi Adolf Eichmann had no written orders for directing the genocide against the Jews. There’s nothing new in all of this mess.

    te-lep-a-thy n. extrasensory communication between minds. Webster’s New World Dictionary.

  10. Blood on their hands; those who promoted the falsehoods of Planned Parenthood selling body parts for a profit.

    Ted Cruz, Fox News, and on and on, you have blood on your hands. You create the insanity that murdered a police officer and citizens.

    When will it ever stop? When will self interest turn to common good?

    This is not the way to run America. This is promoting American terrorism of angry white men taking lives of the innocent.

    Politicians. The conservative media. Connect the dots. You have blood on your hands.

  11. I just watched a BBC documentary of ancient history of women whose images were carved in stone wearing veils on their heads; this was back in 2000-1500 B.C. The report addressed how women in that particular ancient time were elevated to Queen, Princess and Goddess categories $$, yet everything else they reported on were how women were viewed as an inferior species, next to men.

    The other ancient women/girls were Sold into slavery, SOLD into marriages, raped and killed for being raped, disowned, and cast out and what is shocking is that these stories continue to exist right NOW. In numbers that are shocking.

    Many of our young or middle age women will die in this country because of one of the most common health conditions known to continue this evolution of “Man.” This is Basic Health Care for our survival. Right?

    We have daughters dying from childbirth and miscarriages in this day and age, even at hospitals where they are supposed to be professionals at saving lives. $$ STILL!

    Women, for as long as we have been around, just aren’t worth saving in some men’s eyes. $$
    Please tell me I’m wrong. $$
    Forget abortions, forget health care, this is a cultural problem with the way women have been treated since the dawn of history. $$

    When is it going to stop?

    Enough is Enough.

  12. I moved to a local publicly owned hospital from a Catholic one when a family member’s end of life decision was over-ridden by a doctor who refused to follow it due to his own religious beliefs. The Catholic bishops who would allow a woman to die in order to “save” an unborn child, who may or may not survive is wrong on so many levels.
    My mother, a devout Catholic her entire life, parted company with the bishops. The decision to let the mother die completely disregards the effects on any other children, to say nothing of her spouse and family. My mother believed that the life of the mother was paramount.
    Celibate men, in positions that control enormous wealth and power, are NOT the ones who should be making those decisions. Catholic women, including myself, have been making our own decisions about procreation for hundreds of years. Rape, incest and medical and financial conditions are all very serious considerations for women who might be or are pregnant. Men who are affected secondarily, if at all, have bullied and intimidated women with religious ideology and more recently with threats and use of lethal weapons. They need to remember that women will do what they believe is in their best interests regardless of the legal hoops they are forced to jump through. Back alley abortions should not become the high risk only option.
    I do not understand women who buy into this ideology . It seems they either lack empathy, imagination or both. Only in the last 100 years have women had a reasonable expectation of surviving pregnancies. It is an ugly truth that these women either do not know or do not care to know. Religious beliefs replace reasoned self-interests for them.
    And they wonder why more and more Americans are religiously “unaffiliated”.

  13. Other news > A Mississippi Waffle House customer shot and killed an employee early Friday after she asked him not to smoke, police said. Biloxi police Sgt. Donnie Dobbs said a call was received about the shooting at 1:11 a.m. The customer, Johnny Max Mount, had argued with employee Julia Brightwell of Biloxi after being told that he couldn’t smoke, Dobbs said.
    “He pulled out a handgun and shot her in the head,” Dobbs said.

    This Waffle House murder and the Colorado Murders have one thing in common at least. Usually a criminal is going to try to get away. The gunmen at the Waffle House and Colorado PPP had no intention of evading capture. A planned assault at PPP and spur of the moment in a Waffle House.

  14. Medical doctors make poor theologians and theologians make poor medical doctors, and like church and state and oil and water, their views cannot successfully mix, but the real question is whether a woman’s right to abort depends upon advice of science or religion. I come down on the side of science and the woman’s right to choose. Ending life (contrary to the exhortations of the preacher/priest brigade and sign-carrying screamers outside the doors of clinics) is not an issue, since these same people knowingly kill the mothers or mothers-to-be in favor of saving the lives of the fetuses/delivered babies.

    It is therefore not killing per se that is involved but rather who gets killed based upon some interpretation of ancient Jewish literature finally canonized at the Second Council of Nicea in 381 A.D. into what we call “the bible.” If medical doctors today practiced the same kind of medicine that was practiced in 381 A.D. (when Rome was still in charge though in decline), we would have more medical malpractice cases crowding our courts’ dockets than speeding tickets in police court.

    We apparently insist on modernizing the sciences while leaving our theology where we found it in some Aesop environment, only to ignore or pick and choose today what science we will follow as it may or may not accord with a some 2,000 year old view of right and wrong by scribes in the Roman province of Palestine. (Accord: Sarah, Rush, TV preachers et al.)

    George Washington almost but didn’t quite see year 1800, dying in December, 1799. He had a pulmonary disorder and his doctor ordered that he be bled to rid him of such “vapours.” It didn’t work; the Father of Our Country went his way. As a retired lawyer who has been on both sides of medical malpractice suits, I can assure you that bleeding people for pulmonary problems is per se medical malpractice in this day and age and that liability could be established by a motion for summary judgment with only damages remaining to be proven.

    Let’s take some of what we are seeing practiced today, contrast it to what the ancients held, and take the result to its dry logical end. Thus medical science has progressed greatly since 381 A.D. I can’t say the same for theology, and speaking of killing women, this canonized document calls for the killing of women who wear men’s clothing. Here in Florida I see many women dressed in men’s clothing and I suppose we are derelict in failing to do our duty to stone them to death. Presumably men (so far as I know) never wore bikinis, so I further suppose such women I see on the beach so clad are exempted from death by stoning. Neither the constitution nor the bible addresses jet planes or computers, either, but I suppose the preacher-priest class has a ready answer for their noise and social distraction as well as to who to kill when a dying pregnant mother to be or not to be shows up at the hospital where it’s an either/or situation. I think that class is out of order in deciding who to kill as a matter of rote and that their understanding of morality is flawed in any event.

    I come down on the side of the mother. It’s her body, and it’s her right to choose, and while there are no good options in such situations, I consider her choice more morally grounded than that of preachers, priests and popes who are now and have been out of the loop for centuries on end.
    In order to be consistent, one could argue that Catholic hospitals should put all women to death who are wearing men’s clothing in their facilities in accord with scripture. How far does this worship of the printed word go? Are we worshipping worship? Shall we “bleed” those who need a tourniquet due to interpretation of some ancient directive? Where does such logic take us? Back to the cave? Logic, Holy Father?

  15. While it is clear that this was an attack on Planned Parenthood and the shooter was heard saying, “no more baby parts,” Colorado police are sitting on the motive for unknown reasons, and right leaning news sources – including our own Rupert Murdock/Gannett owned newspaper – say the motive is “unclear.”

    Right wing extremists and their sounding horns need to accept responsibility for the nutcases they inspire to act rather than whistling and examining their fingernails while the s!#t flies.

  16. “…but the real question is whether a woman’s right to abort depends upon advice of science or religion.”

    Jerry; I certainly hope your comment referred to the WOMAN’S religious decision and not that of anyone else’s religion. And I was so proud of the fact that men responding seemed to understand the actual problem. In 1970, at 34 years of age with 5 children and “female problems” I had to have my husband’s written permission on a legal document to get a tubal ligation. And needed that same permission 18 months later to have a hysterectomy due to possible cancer; test results were not fully known till a frozen slide was done during surgery. No religion involved and no politics; simply husband’s ownership of wives at that time. We are moving closer to that era again with religious and political control (primarily old men) making decisions for women now.

  17. Sheila – thank you for raising the issue of hospital consolidation (as well as other issues). It brought to mind the hyper-partisan gubernatorial refusals in several states of Obamacare and the concurrent expansion of Medicaid.

    Hospitals in small county seats surrounded by poor rural communities are as dependent on Medicare and Medicaid payments as their poorer patients. Obamacare was a lifeline to these patients and hospitals. But politics superseded life-giving and life-saving considerations, and hospitals in rural areas are faced with closing. In most of those states (Indiana being an exception), no replacement for Obamacare has been proposed, let alone implemented.

    We used to have the civic self-discipline to make politics stop at the shoreline when it came to international affairs. Unfortunately, we don’t have that history on life and death medical issues. Medical care for those who can’t afford it has been hyper-political for decades. Religious objections to medical care are even more difficult for me to understand. Jesus himself healed the sick rather than letting nature take its course. He said as we have done it to the least of these, so we have done it to him.

  18. I’m not sure how one would determine it but it would be useful to understand how much pro-life energy is motivated by honest need to protect incipient children and how much is blind defense of the Faith.

  19. Another eye opening post, Sheila. And nice comment, Wallflower.
    Our family was discussing the alarming number of kindergartners affected by meth in the economically impoverished county in California where they live and teach. The children come to school either as having been born to a meth addicted mother or have lived in households where both parents are addicted to meth. When someone mentioned that the meth addicted mothers don’t even want children, I suggested abortions. My niece pointed out that the few local hospitals are owned by a religious group that is opposed to abortion. In a rural conservative county it is probably unlikely that even those who sought prenatal care would get counseling that included terminating the pregnancy.

  20. I’ll state upfront that I have no issue with a female’s decision to have an abortion as I’ve had two clinical abortions, one in 1974 and one in 1975, while married to the same husband. I suppose the fact that at the times of the individual abortions, both my husband’s and my healthcare insurance covered the cost of a clinical abortion, at least up to 20 weeks in the Commonwealth of Virginia. Additionally, neither abortion was performed at a Planned Parenthood Clinic, and if my memory serves me, there were no Planned Parenthood Clinics in the Norfolk/Virginia Beach/Tidewater Virginia area at that time. There were no protestors outside Sentara Norfolk General Hospital or my OB/GYN’s office in 1974 and 1975, perhaps because there was no mention of Planned Parenthood which may be a ‘flag’ for the crazies.

    At present, there are 15 states where Medicaid covers the cost of an abortion for women who qualify for Medicaid benefits. These states are:
    Alaska, New Jersey
    California, New Mexico
    Connecticut, New York
    Hawaii, Oregon
    Maryland, Vermont
    Massachusetts, Washington
    Minnesota, West Virginia

    Question here. If Medicaid pays for abortion in the above 15 states, is Planned Parenthood the sole provider and hence the recipient of all Medicaid funds for abortion? I’m clueless and curious.

    For women living outside the 15 states mentioned above, funds for abortions are available via several organizations listed by state in the following link. Indiana has no organization listed as providing abortion funds for women.

  21. I have a friend who will never get out of a wheel chair due to severe complications with pregnancies. These pregnancies were for wanted children. But apparently it is so much more fun to reap the moral high ground in harassing abortion clinics than to spend money on making pregnancy safer. Instead, what women get from their own government is nothing but abuse. And this is for you, Patricia Miller, RN; You were behind proposed legislation for vaginal probing women–twice–who were getting chemical abortions because we can’t allow women who go against your religious beliefs to get off without at least a perp walk so you proposed abuse via medical device. If only you would use your powers (and education) for good and spend some money on things like, oh, I don’t know, kindergarten? Quality government sponsored health care? Living wage? TOTALLY FREE prenatal care? Maybe if you, and you have lots of company, but I continually cite you because having an RN I know you know better, would make pregnancy and childbirth less dangerous, leaving your child in someone else’s care less dangerous, maybe fewer women would have an abortions, which, surgical or chemical much safer than pregnancy–especially in this state.

  22. @girlcousin,

    As you wrote, “I have a friend who will never get out of a wheel chair due to severe complications with pregnancies. These pregnancies were for wanted children.”

    And, as I ask, what does this have to do with abortion rights or reproduction freedom for females?

  23. My point is, women should be making reproductive decisions with their doctors–not politicians. Patricia Miller is a state senator who misses no opportunity to try to put family planning clinics out of business. My point about my friend is her care suffered because of the lack of care for women and children in the US. We are the worst ranked country for maternal health. Maybe if we weren’t fighting the culture wars, women would have better outcomes due to more research and money spent on this. Sorry that wasn’t obvious to you.

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