Catholic bishop cartoon figure
Oops, we just screwed ourselves
Well, this certainly didn't take long:
Three Colorado bishops said on Thursday they will review a Catholic Church hospital's defense of a lawsuit that argues fetuses do not have legal status - apparently contradicting the Church's teaching on life issues.

The case stems from a malpractice and wrongful death lawsuit filed by Jeremy Stodghill in the 2006 death of his seven-month pregnant wife Lori at a Catholic hospital in Canon City, Colorado. Her twin fetuses also died.

In defending itself from the lawsuit, defendant Catholic Health Initiatives, the Church-affiliated organization that runs the Church-affiliated St. Thomas More Hospital where Lori Stodghill died, argued:
[T]he court "should not overturn the long-standing rule in Colorado that the term 'person,' as is used in the Wrongful Death Act, encompasses only individuals born alive. Colorado state courts define 'person' under the Act to include only those born alive. Therefore Plaintiffs cannot maintain wrongful death claims based on two unborn fetuses."
Let's take a moment to appreciate just how stunning an argument that really is. After all, the entire movement to strip women of their reproductive rights—in which the Catholic Church is a very prominent voice—is based on the belief that the courts should absolutely overturn long-standing law. That's their whole argument, in fact. The law is wrong and should be overturned. That's why they keep introducing blatantly unconstitutional legislation all over the country, for the explicit purpose of provoking litigation that will ultimately allow the courts to overturn those very laws.

And now a Catholic institution is arguing that, contrary to everything the Catholic Church has ever said, a fetus is not a person, has no rights or protections, and—and this point is particularly important—that's how it should stay.

Now, lest you think that an attorney representing a Catholic organization that manages a Catholic hospital does not actually speak for the Church, and therefore, the arguments in legal documents do not represent the Church itself, au contraire, smarty pants. Let's go below the fold to review the Taco Bell rule, shall we?

The Taco Bell rule was first offered by Anthony Picarello, general counsel for the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, when the bishops were hissy-fitting themselves over insurance coverage of birth control. Under this rule, there is no distinction between the Catholic Church, Catholic-affiliated organizations, or privately owned companies that appear to have no religious affiliation, but that are owned or managed by someone who claims to be Catholic. Like, say, someone who opens a Taco Bell franchise. Under this rule, it's all the Catholic Church, according to the Catholic Church, and should all be afforded the exact same legal protections as the Church itself.

Therefore, according to the Church's own standards, when a Catholic-affiliated organization claims that a fetus is not a person, well, that's pretty much the same thing as a declaration from the pope himself, isn't it?

The problem now, of course, is that in arguing a fetus is not a person, this Catholic organization—which supposedly adheres to the strict Ethical and Religious Directives of the Catholic Church, as set forth by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops—thoroughly undermined everything the Church has ever said about women and health care and fetuses and the "sanctity of life." All to save a buck.

Of course the bishops are going to do their very best to clean up the mess, which is why Denver Archbishop Samuel Aquila, Colorado Springs Bishop Michael Sheridan and Pueblo Bishop Fernando Isern will be conducting their review of the case "to ensure fidelity and faithful witness to the teachings of the Catholic Church." (Catch that? The teachings of the Church. Not Jesus. The Church.)

But what's that saying about closing a barn door after the horse has left? The defendants already made the argument—and won. So what's the plan? The bishops are going to decide the legal argument is invalid and the widower is owed a payout for the wrongful death of his wife and twins? If there's one thing we know for certain it's that the Catholic Church will go to very extreme lengths to avoid legal or financial accountability, including, but not limited to, obstructing criminal investigations.

So regardless of what the bishops determine with their review, they lost this fight. It's over. A fetus is not a person and should have no rights or protections under the law, and that's how it should stay. Amen.

Originally posted to Kaili Joy Gray on Fri Jan 25, 2013 at 12:18 PM PST.

Also republished by Abortion and Daily Kos.

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