Catholic Hospital Argues Fetuses Aren’t People!


Did the above headline catch your attention? It caught mine when it appeared in my Facebook news feed recently. And it was not an anomaly: The following headlines also showed up in Google searches and on Twitter.

Catholic hospital system: Fetus not a person
The fetus is not a person, so sayeth the Catholic Church
Catholic hospital: Fetus not legally a person
Catholic hospital claims fetus not person

When I first encountered the headline, I was incensed. And after reading the article through the lens of the headline, I was even more incensed. It is a heartbreaker. Here is a recap of the story.

According to a court document, 31-year-old Lori Stodghill was 28 weeks pregnant when she went to the emergency room of St. Thomas More Hospital in Canon City, Colorado, vomiting and short of breath. She went into cardiac arrest in the hospital’s lobby and died. Her unborn twin boys perished with her. That was New Year’s Day 2006.

Lori’s husband was now a widower, left to care for a two-year-old child alone. He filed a lawsuit against the hospital because, he alleged, his wife did not receive the care she needed when she arrived at the hospital. (See this link to the full story.)

But wait…there is more to this story than the sensational media headline that most people will never move beyond.

The courts have sided with the Church’s legal team in Colorado because, under state law, an embryo is not person until it is born alive, according to court documents. In other words, you need to pass the birth canal to be considered a person. The Catholic hospital’s legal team argued their case based on that law.

In order for Mr. Stodghill to have won his case, this law would have to be changed to say that an embryo is a person while still in utero.

One of the reasons the Catholic hospital won its case is because pro-choice advocates won their case. We won. Without the drama of the media, it’s worth thinking about, isn’t it?

Any thoughts?

Odd Loves Company,

(Thank you to Facebook friend Steve Myers for opening this conversation up beyond the headline.)

14 thoughts on “Catholic Hospital Argues Fetuses Aren’t People!

    • Thanks Yvonne…I was going to post but decided to stick to the single case. I am glad you posted the link! The ambivalence is appalling.

  1. First off, for this tragedy to take 7 years to wind through the court system is ridiculous. Next, as a practicing Catholic, I’m appalled to hear the Church is taking the secular side of this question, probably in an effort to spare itself some money (which, as we all know, is itself ridiculous since they’re not exactly poor). This man and his daughter have suffered enough. They lost their whole family, for Pete’s sake! To tell him that his flesh and blood weren’t “people” unless and until they were actually born is just splitting hairs. Every Catholic knows that, from the moment of conception, it’s a person. If the Church really wants to lead and influence morality, it will take a stand — no matter how unpopular — and uphold its own beliefs. Thanks for bringing this to my attention.

    • Ahh but Debbie the Church isn’t telling them the fetus is not a person—the state law is…
      Oh yes I know and I could not agree more from a moral sense and OHHHH how it pains me to cut the Catholic Church boys some slack…but in this case if you were a lawyer for the hospital would you use the law? Personally I think the Catholic Organization is making a point at a families expense…but perhaps we had better pay attention…

      • I think that’s the danger, Kb — using the letter of the law without regard to its intent. You’ve got to hand it to the Church, though. Maybe they want people to become outraged over this and then stop and think about what’s really morally right. But “using” this one family to prove a point is sad indeed. Perhaps we shouldn’t expect the Church to be any “bigger” than we’d be, if we were in their position. See how easy it is to hang oneself on the details??

        • Absolutely. Believe me I hung them from a high rope based on plain outrage when I first saw this and then I started to wonder if they weren’t trying to make a larger point…..It felt like a “so there” and opportunity to “show us” at the expense of this family.
          I’m pretty sure I could not have argued this case…but not certain.

    • The law in Colorado states an embryo is not a person. The Catholic Hospitals lawyers used this as their defense. The Catholic Hospital can maintain they believe the embryo becomes a person at conception, while their lawyers use the state law that claims the embryo is not a person as their defense. In order for the family to win the law suit, this law would have to be changed and the embryo would have to be given rights as a person. Which then means pro-choice would take a hit. Some say, the law could be written to protect the embryo under the mothers legal rights and hopefully this will be looked at as a future option.

  2. The Catholic organization is basing their defense on the law. It is a smart legal defense and any lawyer representing them would have to use it.
    I can’t imagine why this case has taken so long to be resolved. In my opinion, without delving into all the details it would be very hard to overturn the decision on this case under the current law.
    It is true that the Catholic Hospital is speaking out of both of sides of their mouths but couldn’t the same be said for people who support pro choice?

    • Do you mean…that those in favor of pro choice want to claim legal rights for an embryo while at the same time saying that embryo is not a person? In most cases (not all but most) the pro-choice movements stays away from arguing about when life begins and argues that it is the right of the women to determine if she carries a pregnancy full term. There have been determination made as to what stages of pregnancy an abortion is legal. It would be interesting to find out how late in a pregnancy an abortion can be performed legally in Co. since under law the embryo is not a person until born.

  3. I’m confused. I know it’s not the church that say the fetus not a person, it’s the state. But because of this the Catholic hospital win the case. So they basically agree with the state? Where will they stand on abortion then?

    • Well, it really isn’t technically the Catholic Church it is a Catholic Hospital or Catholic organization. The lawyers have to argue the law or argue to change the law. The law as it stands now in Colorado is that an embryo is not a person until it is born. Therefore, it does not have any legal rights. The Catholic church can say it still holds with the belief that life begins with conception but the law which is what they are being sued under holds a different belief (not sure what the legal term for belief would be) In my opinion the Church is playing a gotcha. Colorado could change the law (I believe…I am not a lawyer) to protect the unborn embryo rights under the legal rights of the mother and this change would not effect those in favor of pro-choice. In reality this is less about the Catholic Church and more about our legal system. My personal opinion? The Catholic Church speaks with a forked tongue.

  4. Not sure what to say about this one other than the law needs to be reviewed and the Catholic Hospital might want to review their own conscience. If the hospital was truly neglectful the choice should have been easy for them and if it wasn’t perhaps a mediation process would have resolved this matter more peacefully.

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