Tuesday, November 1, 2011

I Almost died Due To A Catholic Hospital Practicing "Fetal Personhood"

*Note-I was motivated to write this in 2011 due to the upcoming ballot initiative to add a “fetal personhood” amendment to the Mississippi constitution. It was the first time I shared my story publicly. I started sharing it again the next year because it applied to HB 1196 the “heartbeat bill“. That bill had been killed but Rep.Andy Gipson stuck modified language in SB-2771 “Katie’s law” a child murder bill, (which led to the bill failing to pass). Although there is was exception for “life” of the mother my situation wasn’t considered life threatening  emergency until it was almost too late – MEDICINE SHOULD NOT BE PRACTICED BY LAWMAKERS AND RELIGIOUS FUNDAMENTALISTS WRITING LAWS*
In the recesses of my mind there are so many experiences that make it impossible for me to support fetal personhood and abortion bans. No one ever thinks that one day they will be sitting down to tell the story of how they almost died due to being denied an abortion during a miscarriage. These are the stories you stuff deep in your soul and keep to yourself. Yet I feel every story like mine has to be told so that the lies of how the thinking behind personhood won’t hurt any women and will only save “babies” can be exposed.
I was 18 years old, a wife, a mother of beautiful twin girls. I was also solidly anti choice. During the 12-13th week of my second pregnancy I awoke in the middle of the night to the feeling of wetness between my thighs. A quick inspection found a pink discharge. So I rushed to the hospital ER.  After being given a once over I was told to go home, rest and return if I began to bleed. “You may be having a miscarriage but you aren’t right now” they said.
By mid morning I was bleeding; heavily. This time they gave me an ultrasound. They let me know I was indeed having a miscarriage. I was informed the fetus had not developed normally. The embryo had actually stopped growing at 8-9 weeks, but since they detected a faint heartbeat and this was a Catholic hospital they could not do a D&C (*cough* abortion). There policy is NO ABORTIONS. I was again instructed to go home, rest and wait. At this point I, an uninsured low wage worker had made 2 visits to the ER and could see the bills piling up.
Within a few hours of returning home I was experiencing bad cramping, passing big blood clots and bleeding so heavily that I took my young daughters diapers to catch the blood, a normal pad was not enough. I was afraid if I went back to the hospital they weren’t going to do anything. Frankly, we didn’t have the money for another fruitless visit. When you have basically been patted on the head and told to go home twice it’s easy to feel that way. So I carried on with my day as normal. I was sitting on the phone with a friend at my mother’s apartment next door when I fell out of my chair and passed out. All can remember the feeling of the cold floor and my husband’s voice saying “oh my God wake up” while my grandmother yelled “call an ambulance”. By the time the ambulance arrived I was going into shock and my veins were collapsing making starting an IV hard. I was in and out of consciousness on the ride to the hospital. At that moment I had no idea how much blood I had lost or that I was really close to death. I was well aware by the time we arrived at the hospital. I could feel it and the reactions of staff confirmed it.
It took five tries to start another IV line for the blood transfusion I was now in need of, in fact the doctor had to come and do it. My most vivid memory is of my family doctor (a former Ob/Gyn), who was now working his ER shift, yelling in the hall “WHO THE FUCK SENT HER HOME! She could have died!” After they stabilized me a bit I was rushed to emergency surgery for a D&C (abortion they just call it by another name so you feel better) to remove any remaining tissue from my body and stop me from continuing to bleed uncontrollably. It was to be performed by the same Ob/Gyn who had sent me home, twice.
As I was about to be put under I said to the anesthesiologist “please don’t let him kill me”. All I wanted in that moment was to get home to my little twin girls. After surgery I was placed on the maternity floor. The nurse on duty found me crying and said “don’t worry, you’re young you can have more”. Not only was there no compassion for my experience but no acknowledgment that I had just avoided death. After a day in the hospital and almost a week off work my life slowly returned to normal. What angers me is it didn’t have to be like that.
Luckily sometime while I was bleeding to death at home that day I passed the embryo. I often wonder what would have happened if I had not. Would they have even have saved my life or would they have let me die due to a non viable “person” inside of me? Never once did this hospital tell me I could go somewhere else, somewhere non-religious, somewhere that didn’t believe fetuses are people and abortion is murder. They cared more about a 13 week non progressing embryo than me, a living breathing woman. A wife, mother, daughter, and granddaughter and most important a PERSON! A woman who went on to “choose life” 5 more times. Somehow I was not part of the equation only my pregnancy was. To them I lost my rights when I became pregnant apparently even my right to quality healthcare.
I hadn’t thought much about that day until recently because people keep saying that initiative 26 aka the personhood bill will not change the way women are treated by their doctors. My experience with a hospital governed by the same beliefs that this bill is based on says otherwise and I am not alone and studies prove it. I’ll never understand what made a nonviable pregnancy that could not be saved more worthy than living breathing thinking ME. My life should have mattered. My children needing a mother should have mattered. My future should have mattered.
 I think about the consequences for women and their access to birth control. Young women like my daughter who isn’t on birth control to prevent pregnancy but because she has PMDD which causes such profound mood swings before her period we call it “hell week”. Women who like me have fibroids, which led to my hysterectomy, but the first line of treatment often is birth control pills. Women trapped in abusive relationships who use birth control to gain back control of their lives so they are not trapped in their relationship forever. Just some facts women who are in domestic violence relationships are very likely to have birth control sabotage be apart of their abusers arsenal of control. Abusers know that a woman is less likely to leave if pregnant and even if she does he will have access to her for the next eighteen years of her life through her child. Women who just don’t want to have children, ever and that’s ok. All the trans* and non gender conforming people who need access. The families who want to space and control their fertility.
I wonder why when I talk to people about 26 women no matter if they agree or not seem willing to listen but men are angry and loud in their opposition to women having abortion as an option or saying that our bodies matter. I have heard many comments about women needing to live with the consequences of their actions. Even going so far as to declare pregnancies that happen due to rape or incest acts of God that women should be made to suffer through because it’s God’s will. There is a language of divine intervention and women knowing their places as baby carriers. No one should be made to gestate unless they want to regardless of how their pregnancy occurred.
If you pause to think about it it’s a scary thought. It made me think about the “personhood” movement as a whole and how I don’t believe that the consequences to reproductive choices outside of abortion are an accident or collateral damage. It is by design. Women with choices is a scary concept to many people especially cis hetero men. Not being able to shame women through evidence of our sexual behavior doesn’t make them very happy either. When you take away abortion, birth control, and access to IVF many of the things that the people behind “personhood” dislike the most can no longer happen. Women will NOT have control over their reproductive choices. the last option, condom use, will be primarily in the hands of men.
History should tell use how well that works. Same sex couples, trans and single people will not be able to use IVF to create a family outside of conservative religious norms. People will not be able to avoid stigma or shame brought on by unplanned pregnancy and have healthier sex lives (especially teens).
No I don’t think it is an accident that this amendment will have the power to do many things that the conservative movement wants to do. Initiative 26 essentially has the power to turn back the clock on reproductive choices for ALL families. I can’t help but think……….. how 1950s of them.


  1. I went to a Catholic hospital in October 2005 to get medical attention on a invitro complication. I had hyper stimulation ovarian syndrome in which I gained 15 pounds of water weight and all that ovarian leakage internally was placing great pressure on my lungs and heart. The Catholic hospital laughed at me when I said I did not have sex. Of course not when they did egg retrieval they go through the vaginal wall thus no one wants an infection. So the Ob doctor laughed at me and asked me if I think I am the virgin Mary! I was refused treatment told to go home. Only my own mother would wheel chair me out of the hospital. The bill was over $2000 for them doing nothing. Do not go to a Catholic hospital if you were raped, abortion altercations, invitro altercations and now after reading this article miscarriages.

    1. That is so horrible but I am not surprised. A Catholic "pro life" doctor here in Mississippi came up to a mother who used IVF to conceive and told her "you know you aren't entitled to get pregnant". I think they are sick.

  2. Approximately 35 years ago my (then) wife was suffering intense pain and was bleeding from an early pregnancy. We rushed her to the hospital in Dallas (St Paul Hospital) where before a doctor could see her, a nun came into the room and "evaluated" the situation. The doctor then came in and informed us that the hospital did now allow abortions...
    This was not an unwanted pregnancy, but it was clear to us (as young as we were) that it was not meant to be. Regardless of her pain and heavy bleeding, we were told to go back home.
    On the way home she got worse and worse and she almost died. She lost the baby that night and almost her life.
    I will never support any medical facility that places religion above health and common sense.
    I live in Houston now, but every time I'm in Dallas and drive near that hospital, I still remember the callousness of the nun and the medical staff. And it still makes me angry.

    1. I am so sorry that happened to you. I went on to deliver in two more times at that hospital (I gave birth to my twins there too). It was traumatic for me to be on the same floor with the same staff each time. Thankfully I rarely saw the doctor who sent me home. When I had my next miscarriage I stayed home and monitored my bleeding. I was scared of being treated the same way again.

  3. My earliest memory is of finding blood on the bathroom floor and of my mother being rushed to the hospital. She was having a "spontaneous abortion," which is the medical term for what laypersons call a miscarriage. The hospital to which she was taken was Catholic. She needed a D&C but the hospital would not allow it. She very nearly bled to death.

    That was in the 50s. Later, Catholic hospitals liberalized their policies and would indeed allow D&Cs in such cases, but it's my understanding that we are back in the 50s and they will no longer do them.

    I would never go to a Catholic hospital.

    1. So sorry that you went through that. The crazy thing is they will tell you that in an emergency they will "save the life of the mother" studies, stories, and the deaths of many women proves otherwise.
      In the late 80s the Catholic clinic that was affiliated with the Catholic hospital made my mother carry a dead fetus for almost 2 months until her body expelled it. She could have become septic. They could have referred her for an D&C (abortion_) at another hospital to terminate but nope they allowed her to suffer thinking maybe they were wrong, maybe her very wanted pregnancy was progressing. It was cruel and dangerous. I didn't even know about it until recently.