Many of you have probably heard the astonishing report about Sister Margaret McBride, who was excommunicated for her role in approving a first trimester abortion that was necessary to save a woman’s life. Last November, the medical staff at St. Joseph’s Hospital and Medical Center diagnosed a pregnant woman with a condition that she would not survive if she continued the pregnancy. As a Catholic hospital, St. Joseph’s follows the Ethical and Religious Directives for Catholic Health Care Services, which greatly restricts access to reproductive health care and other services. Sister McBride’s decision to save this woman’s life resulted in automatic excommunication, the harshest punishment that the Catholic Church could have bestowed upon her. Apparently, while the Catholic Church makes exceptions for sex-offending priests (none of whom have been excommunicated), there is no room for a nun who was truly concerned about a patient’s life and right to a legal procedure that would prevent her death.
In an attempt to clarify the Directives, Bishop Thomas J. Olmsted, the leader of the Phoenix archdiocese, said “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 problem with this statement is easy to spot: An 11 week fetus cannot survive without the mother. It is clear that Olmstead places more value on the fetus than the life of a woman. If Sister McBride shared this short-sighted view, the woman’s 4 existing children would have been left motherless. Hospitals should be a safe place where women can go to get treatment and care that is in their best interest. Sadly, Catholic hospitals often put religious doctrine before women’s lives and medical requests.
NARAL Pro-Choice Maryland commends Sister Margaret McBride for being brave enough to defy the Church in order to save a woman’s life and we are not alone; Catholics for Choice is urging individuals to show their support for Sister McBride by sending her a letter by May 28th. Let Sister McBride know that she is not alone and send her a note expressing your support today!