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In the Court of Public Opinion: ACLU vs. USCCB

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From Catholic Bishops
Catholic Bishops
(image by michael_swan)

(Article changed on December 10, 2013 at 06:46)

Duluth, Minnesota (OpEdNews) December 9, 2013: The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) has filed a federal lawsuit against the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) regarding their ethical directives for Catholic hospitals. The ACLU lawsuit was filed on behalf of a Michigan woman, Tamesha Means.

Formally, the USCCB directives are known as "Ethical and Religious Directives for Catholic Health Services," fifth edition (2009).

However, long before this lawsuit goes to trial, it is already on trial in the court of public opinion.


On December 2, 2013, the New York Times published a news story by Erik Eckholm titled "Bishops Sued Over Anti-Abortion Policies at Catholic Hospitals."

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In his story Eckholm cites John M. Haas, president of the National Catholic Bioethics Center in Philadelphia, as saying that the USCCB directives "were more nuanced than critics allege, allowing for actions to treat a woman at risk even if that treatment might result in the loss of the fetus."

Nevertheless, Eckholm does not quote the relevant directive.

So I will quote it here: "47. Operations, treatments, and medications that have as their direct purpose the cure of a proportionately serious pathological condition of a pregnant woman are permitted when they cannot be safely postponed until the unborn child is viable, even if they will result in the death of the unborn child."

This directive is also not quoted in the complaint filed by the ACLU lawyers.


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On December 8, 2013, the New York Times' Editorial Board weighed in with the editorial "When Bishops Direct Medical Care." But the Editorial Board does not give any evidence of being familiar with the directive I just quoted.

In any event, I will give some direct quotes here to highlight their editorial.

QUOTE (1): "These [USCCB] directives, which oppose abortion, inevitably collide with a hospital's duty to provide care to women in medical distress."

COMMENT (1): But has this supposedly inevitable collision been established beyond a reasonable doubt?

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Thomas James Farrell is professor emeritus of writing studies at the University of Minnesota Duluth (UMD). He started teaching at UMD in Fall 1987, and he retired from UMD at the end of May 2009. He was born in 1944. He holds three degrees from Saint Louis University (SLU): B.A. in English, 1966; M.A.(T) in English 1968; higher education, 1974. On May 16, 1969, the editors of the SLU student newspaper named him Man of the Year, an honor customarily conferred on an administrator or a faculty member, not on a graduate student -- nor on a woman up to that time. He is the proud author of the book (more...)

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I guess that the ACLU does not want to fight with ... by Thomas Farrell on Monday, Dec 9, 2013 at 3:45:12 PM
The analogy isn't a good fit, however it does sh... by Mark Colwell on Wednesday, Dec 11, 2013 at 12:44:19 PM
The lawsuit does not establish that the doctor(s) ... by Thomas Farrell on Wednesday, Dec 11, 2013 at 2:01:59 PM
I guess a lot will be riding on the testimony of t... by Mark Colwell on Wednesday, Dec 11, 2013 at 4:10:31 PM
The situation is more complicated than you think i... by Thomas Farrell on Wednesday, Dec 11, 2013 at 6:11:00 PM
So, if we assume for the sake of argument t... by Mark Colwell on Thursday, Dec 12, 2013 at 5:31:17 PM
Perhaps the doctor(s) was afraid of violating the ... by Thomas Farrell on Friday, Dec 13, 2013 at 2:51:43 PM