Nun Who Authorizes Abortion is Excommunicated

May 21, 2010

When religious dogma trumps rationalism, I usually find myself irritated. In this case, I am outraged. The story sounds like a hypothetical, but unlikely, situation that might be posed in a college or seminary class on ethics. In this case, however, it really happened.

Last November, a 27-year-old woman was admitted to St. Joseph’s Hospital and Medical Center in Phoenix. She was 11 weeks pregnant with her fifth child and was suffering from a severe heart condition. Doctors determined that if her pregnancy was carried to term, the woman’s (and fetus’) chances of dying were virtually 100%. They agreed that the only way to save the mother’s life was to perform an abortion.

Unfortunately, the woman was in a Catholic hospital, a place where performing abortions is regarded as impermissible. However, Directive 47 in the U.S. Catholic Church’s ethical guidelines for health care providers allows, in some circumstances, procedures that could kill the fetus to save the mother. Directive 47 clearly applied in this case. The woman was, in fact, so near death that doctors said moving her to a non-Catholic hospital in order to perform the abortion was ill-advised—that the mother would probably die en route.

Given the dire and unusual circumstances Sister Margaret McBride, a hospital administrator, approved the procedure under Directive 47. The fetus, of course, died but the woman survived to return home to her other four children.

Bishop Thomas J. ("I Vass Only Following Orders") Olmstead /AP photo-Roy Dabner-2003

Sister Margaret was promptly excommunicated by Bishop Thomas J. Olmstead. Bishop Olmstead was seconded in this action by the Rev. John Ehrich, medical ethics director for the Diocese of Phoenix.  “She consented in the murder of an unborn child,” Ehrich said. “There are some situations where the mother may in fact die along with her child. But – and this is the Catholic perspective – you can’t do evil to bring about good. The end does not justify the means.”

Lisa Cahill, who teaches Catholic theology at Boston College said, “They were in quite a dilemma. There was no good way out of it. The official church position would mandate that the correct solution would be to let both the mother and the child die. I think in the practical situation that would be a very hard choice to make.” Like Olmstead and Ehrich, Ms. Cahill was unwilling to admit that abortion was really the only ethical option under the circumstances.

So, according to these ecclesiastical geniuses, it would be better for the mother and unborn baby to face certain death together than for doctors to save the life of the mother who had four other children in need of her nurturing.

Excommunication is the most serious action that could be taken against Sister Margaret since the Church is no longer allowed to burn heretics at the stake. I’m sure that in earlier days Bishop Olmstead and Rev. Erlich would have piled kindling around Sister Margaret and broiled her on the front lawn of the hospital as a warning to heretics everywhere.

I don’t want to single out the Catholics for this idiocy as it could have happened in any number of sects including Muslim, Pentecostal, Sikh, or Buddhist. It just happens that, this time, it was the Catholics’ turn to dramatize the insanity of some religious beliefs.

It is worth noting that neither the Quran nor the Bible has a thing to say on the subject of abortion, but most followers of both brands of Magic still condemn abortion as vile sin.

Even if you’re foolish enough to believe these books were handed down by a Supreme Being, the prohibitions against abortion are the rules of men, not of God.

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The Black Abortion Conspiracy

March 6, 2010

Abortion is with us to stay. It probably is the worst possible means of birth control. It has been controversial for thousands of years and, in the United States, it has remained a matter of continuous debate and occasional bloodshed since the Supreme Court’s Roe vs. Wade decision in 1974.

I am particularly bothered by the cynical tactics of both abortion foes and abortion proponents. Both have shameless records of exaggeration, lying, threats, and fear-mongering.

The latest, in this case from abortion foes, is completely out of bounds.

Georgia Right to Life, the state’s largest anti-abortion organization, hired Catherine Davis to be its minority outreach coordinator. Ms Davis has been traveling to black churches and colleges statewide delivering this message to young black women: If you get pregnant, don’t get an abortion. Abortions are part of a white conspiracy to eradicate the black race.

As with most conspiracy theories, this one is backed by no substantive evidence and a plausible, but highly unlikely scenario. This is akin to claiming that the NBA is part of a conspiracy to drive whites out of basketball. If you manhandle the statistics you can allege almost anything.

The data make it apparent that abortion is a major concern among blacks. Blacks make up 13% of the US population but they have 40% of the abortions. Nearly 40% of all black pregnancies end in abortion. That rate is 3 times the rate of white women and twice the rate of all other races combined.

Further, about 75% of all black births are to unwed mothers, more than double the rate among the non-black population.

There is a problem both with births to unwed mothers and with abortions among blacks. But these same problems exist among non-blacks at lower rates. There is not a shred of evidence pointing to a eugenic conspiracy to eradicate blacks by encouraging abortions.

According to the SisterSong Women of Color Reproductive Health Collective, the reason blacks have so many abortions is simple: “too many unwanted pregnancies.”

Georgia Right to Life, undaunted by demographic realities, has put up more than 80 billboards captioned “Black children are an endangered species.”

Pro-life Republicans are delighted. They see this conspiracy theory as driving a wedge into one of the Democratic Party’s most loyal constituencies. They relish the prospect of splitting off a piece of the Democratic Party even if it is based on rumors, lies, innuendo, fear, uncertainty, and despair.

Remember this, Republicans and Democrats—blacks and whites: the abortion debate is over. As with gun control we’ve reached an uneasy truce where half the population is on one side and half is on the other.

Nothing is going to change in either of these arenas. Politicians will play on your fears: “You’ll lose your right to an abortion; more people will be carrying guns, abortions will increase dramatically,” etc, etc.

If you vote for anyone based solely on his/her stand on abortion or gun control, you are a sucker.


1990 Pages – Only “Two Small Parts” Remain for Debate

November 4, 2009

The press would give you the impression that all that remains to be hammered out in the 1,990-page health care bill are two “small parts of the legislation,” funding for abortions and funding for illegal immigrants.

Neither of these issues is small, particularly since the country seems to be divided just about down the middle on both matters. (It is worth noting that the country is divided down the middle on most things these days—this is the biggest reason we’re getting nothing done on nuclear security, terrorism, health care, energy policy, education, illegal immigration, the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, taxes, or anything else that is of real concern to voters).

Abortion Funding

[picapp src=”3/b/0/5/Obama_Makes_Contentious_3342.jpg?adImageId=7121798&imageId=4812588″ width=”234″ height=”155″ /]

The cost of a first-trimester abortion is pretty cheap considering the cost of most medical procedures in the United States. Prices range from $90 to $1800, with the average about $430. Wait until the second trimester and costs double or triple—high, but still less than 5 grand.

Abortion probably is the worst possible means of birth control but for those whose situation is such that they seriously are considering an abortion it is arguably the best choice for them and for the rest of us. The produce of unwanted pregnancies have much higher than average chances of suffering everything from child abuse to criminal convictions. Nothing we’ve tried over the past 50 years has done much to ameliorate the the social and economic problems associated with unwanted children. Economically, abortion costs far less than 1% of what it would cost to raise the child to adulthood.

If the above calculus of birth vs. abortion upsets you, I apologize. If this is a religious or moral issue for you, fine. Get the members of your church together and from among them, raise the $250,000 or so that it’s going to cost to see each of these fetuses to adulthood. And you’d also better be prepared to find homes and good foster parents for them because the odds are their birth mothers are ill equipped to raise children and don’t really want them. Else, why would they have considered an abortion in the first place?

“Adoption Not Abortion” is is a hypocritical slogan of mammoth proportions. Think about it. The greatest opposition to abortion is from the Religious Right. The greatest opposition to government intervention in the lives of individuals also seems to come from the Religious Right. Yet the Religious Right has no qualms about trying to prohibit abortion at every turn and then expecting all taxpayers (rather than just those who believe in Magic and Hell) to suffer the social and economic consequences.

This current health care bill is one of the worst ideas to come out of Washington in years but, if they stick it down our throats, it had better cover abortions. Otherwise I would suggest that the mothers of these unwanted infants leave them on the doorstep of your local pentecostal churches. If you think abortion is a problem that must be solved lest our mortal souls fry in Hell, then make it YOUR duty to solve it.

Illegal Immigrants

erIt isn’t going to make much difference whether illegal immigrants are covered by this bill or not. In fact, we might actually SAVE MONEY by providing free health care to illegal immigrants. Why? Because most of them, if they really are ill, go to an emergency room. They know that they cannot be denied care and that the ER staff are prohibited by law from reporting them to the authorities.

Emergency room care is expensive to deliver but hospitals cannot deny it to anyone, regardless of citizenship or financial means. When a patient shows up with a complaint, the hospital is obligated to diagnose the patient and stabilize him. It probably would be a lot cheaper for a government-run health program to cover illegals by paying for a physician’s office visit and a prescription.

The real problem with illegal immigrants is not the cost of their health care. We all know that something has to be done about illegal immigration before it destroys ever larger portions of our country. But Obama and the Congress refuse to act until “we solve the critical issue of health care.” What they’re really doing is holding us taxpayers hostage, telling us that they won’t even talk about illegals until we go along with their health care proposals. Then they’ll “talk.”

The “talk” won’t result in much of anything except to ensure that illegal immigrants are counted in the 2010 census and that they are registered to vote in time for the fall Congressional elections. The only thing likely to change between now and next November is that Congress and the press will finally have the balls to refer to illegal immigrants as “Undocumented Democrats.”