Catholic Leader Says Woman Should Die With Her Fetus -- When Did Woman-Hating Go Mainstream?
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With this brief quote, the speaker, the Rev. John Ehrich, medical ethics director for the Diocese of Phoenix, deserves credit for achieving a twofer in a recently revived (if not formally declared) misogyny competition that is now sweeping the anti-choice world. He is not only stating that a gravely ill woman (the mother of four children) should have been left to die, rather than being permitted an abortion; he is also explaining why Sister Mary Margaret McBride, the nun-administrator of a Catholic hospital who authorized the abortion (thereby saving the woman’s life) deserves to be excommunicated.
This case, which has received wide coverage in RH Reality Check and other media, has predictably stunned many people, across the abortion divide. Some have pointed out that the Phoenix diocese misinterpreted Catholic health care directives, and that abortion is permissible under these rules when a woman’s life is at stake. Others have made the common sense observation that if the woman had died, not only would her four children remain motherless, but the 11-week old fetus would not have survived either. Inevitably, some commented on the disparity between the nun’s swift excommunication and the fact that none of the identified pedophile priests have received such punishment.
But while the Phoenix case may cause the most jaw-dropping, with its undisguised preference for a woman’s death over an abortion, there are other recent instances that similarly suggest an upsurge of blatant woman-hating in the antiabortion world. Take the notorious Utah law passed earlier this year in response to the deeply sad case of a pregnant teenager who paid a stranger to beat her in the hope of inducing a miscarriage. (In spite of the severe beating that occurred, the pregnancy resulted in a live birth). Outraged that the male in question received a jail sentence but that there was no legal mechanism with which to charge the teen, a Utah legislator pushed through legislation that criminalizes the seeking of an illegal abortion, and which many observers believe has the practical effect of making all miscarriages in the state theoretically suspect. Had this law been in effect at the time of the incident described above, and had the fetus not survived, the desperate young woman could have received fifteen years to life. As the untroubled sponsor of the bill told a reporter, the young woman “has to face the consequences of her barbaric actions.” No one stopped to ask under what conditions she had gotten pregnant nor why she took such drastic measures.
Then there are the mandatory ultrasound laws. These are occurring in a number of state legislatures, but nowhere to date with such viciousness as the one recently passed in Oklahoma. There the new law stipulates that one hour before her abortion, the patient must receive an ultrasound, with the monitor positioned so that she can see it, and the doctor must point to and describe the heart, limbs and organs of the fetus. There are no exceptions for victims of rape or incest.
The current Supreme Court has also shown an unprecedented and disturbing hostility to women with respect to abortion. In its most recent decision on the subject, the 2007 Gonzales v Carhart case which upheld a ban on a certain abortion technique (intact dilation and extraction, or so-called “partial birth abortion”), the Court, shockingly, for the first time upheld an abortion restriction which did not allow any exception for a woman’s health.