Thursday, March 18, 2010

The Catholic Health Association Does Not Understand Reproductive Health

Recently, a few Catholic organizations have come out in favor of health care reform. Not the Catholic Church, mind you — the bishops, cardinals, and the pope are too busy covering the evil deeds in their pasts to spare a moment to support reforms that could save the lives and health of millions of people — but some rogue nuns and other Catholic-run organizations have made pro-reform statements.

One of these groups is the Catholic Health Association, a coalition of Catholic health care providers that seems to put the emphasis on Catholic, rather than on health. Part of Director Sister Carol Keehan's statement reads,
CHA has a major concern on life issues. We said there could not be any federal funding for abortions and there had to be strong funding for maternity care, especially for vulnerable women.
Let me be blunt. You cannot provide "strong funding" for maternity care, particularly maternity care for "vulnerable women" without also covering abortion. It is not possible. Good obstetrical care MUST include coverage for abortion in order to qualify as good obstetrical care.

Good care should allow people to make the best decisions for themselves and their families, including whether or not to add a child to their lives. But that is beside the point. Even if you agree with the Catholic church that women should not own their own bodies, you MUST recognize that good obstetrical care sometimes includes abortion.

When a woman has an ectopic pregnancy, the only way to save her life is to abort the non-viable embryo. When fertility treatments result in a high-order-multiple pregnancy, selective reduction can give the remaining babies a chance at life. When a parasitic twin sucks the life from its sibling, an abortion can save a life. When women face life-threatening complications or illnesses, like cancer, any responsible doctor would offer treatment, rather than letting both mother and baby die. When a fetus as an abnormality that is incompatible with life — like anencephaly — abortion allows women to end the pregnancy early, rather than taking on the risks of pregnancy and birth on behalf of a child that can never draw breath.

These things happen every day. I know that anti-choice advocates would like to pretend that life-threatening complications like ectopic pregnancy are rare, but they are not. Of every fifty pregnancies, one is ectopic and requires abortion in order to save the life of the mother. The CHA wants to make sure that these necessary, life-saving surgeries are not covered. Where does that leave the most vulnerable women?

The CHA is asking for the impossible. There is no good obstetrical coverage without good abortion coverage. There are only two options here: the CHA does not understand what good obstetrical care is, or they would rather uphold a misogynist fantasy than serve patients. Neither is particularly encouraging.

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