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The other side of the Phoenix Catholic abortion case

The other side of the Phoenix Catholic abortion case

by Michael Cook | June 21, 2010

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A Catholic bishop in Phoenix, Arizona, has come under fire for excommunicating a nun who authorised an abortion in a Catholic hospital. A searing op-ed piece in the New York Times by columnist Nicholas Kristof denounced the incident as a “travesty” and described the nun as “saintly”.

The hospital’s story, which Kristof supported, is that a 27-year-old mother of four “suffered from a serious complication called pulmonary hypertension. That created a high probability that the strain of continuing pregnancy would kill her.” The treatment of her condition required the termination of the 11-week-old foetus.

Not many voices have been raised to defend the bishop on medical grounds. Just for the record, here are remarks from a doctor who thinks that an abortion is not an adequate treatment for pulmonary hypertension.

Dr Paul Byrne is director of neonatology and pediatrics at St. Charles Mercy Hospital in Toledo, Ohio, and a former president of the Catholic Medical Association. He told the National Catholic Register that – based on reports in the media – the hospital should have tried to protect both the mother and the child.

“That condition alone will not suddenly take the life of a mother that has been pregnant for 11 weeks. Simple medical treatment, such as bed rest and oxygen supplementation, can be very effective…

“Good medicine follows good morals. You can’t have good medicine without good morals. Life is a gift, and doctors and nurses are called to protect and preserve human life from conception to natural end.

“While acknowledging the lack of specific information regarding the Phoenix case, I cannot recall any similar situation in which abortion was advised to treat pulmonary hypertension. In my experience, when you think your way through a medical problem, you come up with solutions that provide better treatment for the mother, and these solutions allow the baby to grow large enough to survive outside the uterus.”~ National Catholic Register, June 10

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