Wow. I had no idea that some Catholics would go so far as to prevent simple procedures to remove ectopic pregnancies. These are conditions in which the zygote implants in the wrong place — the fallopian tube, rather than the uterus. The embryo can grow for a while, but not long, before it reaches a size that ruptures the fallopian tube and causes the mother to bleed to death. The solution is easy: either surgically remove the doomed embryo before it can become deadly, or use a drug, methotrexate, that kills dividing cells to destroy it.
But no, that’s an abortion and some Catholic hospitals prohibit even procedures that would end an utterly futile pregnancy.
Yes, some Catholic ethicists argue that the catholic “Directives” preclude physicians at Catholic hospitals from managing ectopic pregnancies in a way that involves direct action on the embryo. So a woman can have her whole tube removed (an unnecessary procedure that could reduce her future fertility), but she can not have the pregnancy plucked out (as is done with the standard therapy, a salpingostomy, where a small incision is made in the tube and the pregnancy removed) and she most certainly could not have the methotrexate.
How common is this practice? Well, it is pretty sad that someone had to study it. According to a study from 2011 by Foster e. al., (Womens Health Issues, 2011) some Catholic hospitals refuse to offer methotrexate (three in this study of 16 hospitals). The lack of methotrexate resulted in changes in therapy, transferring patients to other facilities, and even administering it surreptitiously. All of these expose women to unnecessary risks, expense and are, quite frankly, wrong.
These patients who are turned away go, we hope, to less ideologically abusive hospitals, where they get treated. Imagine a country with nothing but Catholic hospitals, though: they’d be sending these women away to die.
I have no understanding at all of the logic that justifies a Catholic hospital refusing to remove a deadly embryo, but does allow them to chop out the whole organ bearing the deadly embryo, at a cost of reduced fertility. It seems somehow un-Catholic…but on the other hand, the fact that it requires twisted theological logic that ignores basic human needs makes it profoundly Catholic.