Pregnant? Avoid Alcohol, Caffeine, and Catholic Hospitals

Regardless of whether you have been pregnant or not, chances are you can recite the long list of things to avoid in pregnancy: alcohol, caffeine, cigarettes, deli meats, unpasteurized cheese, and the list go on.

But one thing that isn't in the baby books that should join that list: Catholic hospitals. Why? Because across the country, Catholic hospitals are denying pregnant women care that is necessary to protect their health. By definition, a Catholic hospital must follow rules set by the Catholic bishops. These rules forbid the hospital from providing some reproductive health care, even when a patient's health or life is at risk.

Case in point: Tamesha Means.

When Tamesha's water broke at 18 weeks, long before her pregnancy was viable, she rushed to a Catholic hospital. Because of religiously based rules, the hospital told Tamesha it could do nothing for her, and didn't tell Tamesha that terminating her pregnancy was the safest course for her. The hospital sent her home twice in excruciating pain. When she returned the third time, in extreme distress and with an infection, the hospital only began to care for her once she began to miscarry. We have filed a lawsuit against the Catholic bishops for setting hospital policy that allows religion to trump women's health.

And yesterday we urged the state of Michigan to investigate another situation where a Catholic hospital is putting women at risk by abruptly refusing to provide tubal sterilization to women undergoing a C-section. A C-section is the best time to get your tubes tied, and women who are denied a tubal sterilization at this hospital will now have to undergo a separate procedure, carrying additional risks, after they heal from childbirth. But this Michigan hospital isn't the only one that refuses to provide tubal sterilization during a C-section – all Catholic hospitals do, even though it is bad medicine.

Pregnancy can be a scary time: all of those ultrasounds, blood tests, urine tests - always holding your breath for a good result. You're constantly worried about your health, and the health of your future baby. If something does go horribly awry, the last thing you should have to worry about is whether you are going to get appropriate care because of the hospital's religious beliefs.

I was lucky that my pregnancy ultimately went fairly smoothly. But you don't know that it will. So in addition to avoiding all those other things – alcohol, caffeine, etc. – I made sure to tell all my friends and family that if anything happened to me, make sure that I did not get taken to a Catholic hospital for care. But that can't be the answer – in some areas of the country the Catholic hospital is the only option.

If you've received substandard care at a Catholic hospital, we'd love to hear from you. We need to make sure that all hospitals, regardless of their affiliation, provide the best care to women. We all deserve that much.

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John Placette

The article is so wrong in so many ways. One should read Humana Vitae, an encyclical authored by Pope Paul VI and The Theology of the Body authored by Pope John Paul II.


No mention of Natural Law in an article about Catholic medical treatment?

Your assertion that Catholics base their understanding of the world solely on religious beliefs is similar to a child asserting he must go to bed early because his parents just hate him.

Now the child lacks the cognative abilities to have a reasonable diolauge about his bedtime and so he will lash out due to the frustration that comes from this lack of understanding.

So I have to ask why you would neglect any discussion about Natural Law in your article? Is it negligence, ignorance or malice?

William Hamilton

All Hospitals are required to be licensed by State and local governments.
Therefore, no hospital may "pick and choose" what medical care they are willing to offer to the public. We must demand that those Catholic hospitals withholding necessary care to women (having abortion or miscarrying problems) must be striped of their licenses.


I live in Buffalo NY, and I've had two miscarriages for which I received help at our local Catholic hospital. The first was an ectopic for which I was given methotrexate, the second was a D&C following a missed miscarriage (no heartbeat at a follow up ultrasound). In both cases my care was excellent. Although I'm an atheist, I also appreciated the visits provided by religious personnel, both of whom were respectful, nonjudgmental, and very comforting.

I recognize that this may not be the norm across the US, but I felt the need to comment in response to this article.


There is an easy answer for this. Stay away from Catholic Hospitals.


If you don't agree with policy don't go to that particular hospital. Quit being dumb and forcing others to follow your rules. You have a choice and a responsibility to take care of yourself.


Some catholic hospitals have a very strong view and connection to the church while other do not. In fact most "catholic" hospitals were only founded by the Catholic Church and hold little affiliation today. In fact most are owned by multi billion dollar conglomerates profit or not for profit with very little connection to the church and will do what the patient needs no matter the hospitals catholic obligations.


Then go to a different freaking hospital and get over yourselves!! I highly doubt some areas only have the Catholic hospitals available to them. They are probably lazy and don't want to drive 5 more minutes to the other nearby hospital. Or they can just have a midwife! Or even better people with these type of views shouldn't be allowed to procreate in the first place!!!


Unfortunately the option to just go to a different hospital does not always exist.


In days not so long ago, you'd also be at risk of having your child taken, adopted for profit and having his identity erased. But the greater irony is that the ACLU, exposing the Church's lack of respect and care for women and their children, doesn't believe those stolen/erased children their right to identity. Like the Catholic Church, the ACLU has long believed that equal access to one's original birth certificate is a violation of a mother's 'right to privacy,' despite that a birth is a matter of public record and the government confers no such right to privacy. Funnily enough, the Church has been revising its stance on open records, in line with Article 8 of the UN Rights of the Child, while the ACLU stays rooted in this arcane abrogation of rights. Interesting, that.


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