A Dear Abby column published in November brought a strong rebuttal from the Catholic Health Association that ran last week.
Sister Carol Keehan, president and CEO of the association, wrote that Dear Abby columnist Jeanne Phillips “asserted that it is Catholic policy to save the life of the baby over the mother in obstetrical emergencies.”
“This inaccurate statement has been replayed even in movies in spite of repeated denials by Catholic hospitals and the professionals who render care in them,” Sister Keehan stated.
“Catholic policy is abundantly clear on the dignity of both mother and baby and makes no priority of one over the other,” she noted, adding “Catholic hospitals must adhere to the same robust standards as every other maternity service in the country.”
I was taught otherwise. Father Sergio Negro was my Catholic high school’s senior class sex advisor.
One day in 1963, one of my classmates asked Father Negro about the church position regarding exactly the above situation.
Jaws dropped throughout the room when he stated that the mother should always be sacrificed if only one could be saved.
The reason: The mother has lived a life and had her chance to earn a place in heaven, where the baby has not.
This shocked a roomful of young men all of whom were in love with beautiful young women or wanted to be.
The Catholic hierarchy in these parts practiced medicine through at least the 1970s. A Reno native of my long acquaintance is the mother of many children.
For her later pregnancies, she requested and made advance partial payment for tubal ligation surgery after delivery. Additional pregnancy put her life in serious danger. On several occasions in the mid-1970s, doctors refused to perform the birth-control procedure under orders from local Catholic clergy.
This would have been outrageous but marginally understandable at St. Mary’s, which was then owned and managed by the Dominican Sisters. However, my friend birthed all her children at Washoe Medical Center (now Renown), which was then a county-owned hospital.
“I still don’t know how the priests and bishop found out I had requested tubal ligation,” she told me last week. Her money was never refunded.
Seeing the danger, a female doctor finally acted.
“I don’t care if the pope walked in,” the doctor said. She left Nevada soon thereafter.
While Sister Lee may have stated what’s on paper, in practice things remain the same in some places.
Last Dec. 28, the American Civil Liberties Union sued Mercy Hospital in Redding, California, for refusing to perform a ligation.
According to the suit, Dr. Samuel Van Kirk, “estimates that he has had at least 50 patients in the last eight years for whom he has sought but been denied authorization to perform immediate postpartum tubal ligation.”
The ACLU sued Dignity Health, the Catholic hospital network to which Mercy belongs. Dignity owned St. Mary’s before Prime Healthcare acquired it in 2012.
Be well. Raise hell. Esté bien. Haga infierno.
Andrew Barbano is a 47-year Nevadan and editor of NevadaLabor.com. E-mail <email@example.com> Barbwire by Barbano has originated in the Tribune since 1988.