St. Joseph's Hospital and Medical Center was stripped of its Catholic affiliation Tuesday after outrage circulated over an in-house abortion.
The Roman Catholic Diocese of Phoenix, Ariz., stripped the prestigious hospital of its affiliation after it was discovered that the medical staff ended a patient's pregnancy and the life of an 11-week baby in 2009. The abortion was reportedly performed to save the woman who was ruled to be at risk of death.
"In the decision to abort, the equal dignity of mother and her baby were not both upheld," announced Bishop Thomas Olmsted at Tuesday's press conference.
Olmsted denounced the procedure as a violation of the ethical and religious directives of the national Conference of Catholic Bishops.
Olmsted's announcement came after months of talks between the diocese, the hospital and the hospital's parent company, Catholic Healthcare West.
St. Joseph's president, Linda Hunt, defended the hospital's actions in a statement, saying the abortion was necessary to save the mother's life.
"Morally, ethically, and legally, we simply cannot stand by and let someone die whose life we might be able to save," she rationalized.
According to reports, a pregnant woman in her 20s was admitted to the hospital with a history of abnormally high blood pressure when she learned of her pregnancy. After she was admitted to the hospital, her symptoms worsened. Doctors determined she had a high risk of death.
The hospital's ethics team concluded the pregnancy could be ended under the church's ethical directives because "the goal was not to end the pregnancy but save the mother's life," hospital officials stated.
"If we are presented with a situation in which a pregnancy threatens a woman's life, our first priority is to save both patients. If that is not possible, we will always save the life we can save, and that is what we did in this case," stated Hunt.
"The mother had a disease that needed to be treated. But instead of treating the disease, St. Joseph's medical staff and ethics committee decided that the healthy, 11-week-old baby should be directly killed," Olmsted rebutted.
Stripping the hospital of its Catholic affiliation will not result in a significant loss of funding, St. Joseph officials shared. The 697-bed hospital does not receive direct funding from the diocese. However, the hospital will no longer be able to celebrate Mass. The Blessed Sacrament must be removed from its chapel, diocese officials said.
Despite the loss of legitimacy, Hunt said, "St. Joseph's will continue through our words and deeds to carry out the healing ministry of Jesus."
Priests will continue to see patients, and she affirmed that the hospital will still operate from its Catholic heritage.
St. Joseph's is home to the Barrow Neurological Institute and is recognized internationally for its neurology and neurosurgery practices. The institute is also home to the Muhammad Ali Parkinson Center.