Last year, Vice President Mike Pence signed a law in Indiana that requires burials for miscarried fetuses, but a Catholic Indiana hospital has been pressuring patients to do this for years, according to an article from Rewire:
[Kate] Marshall, a University of Notre Dame English professor who wanted nothing more than to have a baby, planned to send the fetal remains for testing, hoping to understand what had caused her miscarriage and thus avoid having another. She also did not want her fetus buried in a grave as if it were a full-grown person.
But the chaplain scorned her decision, Marshall told Rewire in an interview.
Gutted by the sudden loss of her pregnancy, and conscious every moment of the dead fetus that was still inside her body, Marshall asked him to leave five times before he finally did, according to a written complaint she filed with regulators the next day.
Then the second chaplain entered her room.
More aggressive than the first, she refused to leave, and accused Marshall of “sending my baby’s remains into a medical slush pile,” Marshall wrote in her complaint.
St. Joseph Regional Medical Center in Indiana has an optional program called In God’s Arms, which allows patients to participate in a ceremony to honor their lost pregnancies. That’s a good and noble way to help grieving families — assuming those services are wanted. For patients like Marshall, however, offering this program the way the chaplains did only worsened her grief.
While many find comfort in fetal burial programs, imposing these practices on everyone who loses or ends a pregnancy can cause profound shame and distress, a Rewire investigation found. Indeed, even before Pence signed the legislation, St. Joseph had shown just how damaging this approach can be.
“The abuses of these clergy members significantly exacerbated what already was a very stressful and emotionally devastating experience,” Marshall wrote in her complaint. “I am aware that the ‘In God’s Arms’ program can be helpful to many patients, but in this case it was invasive and damaging.”
What’s ironic about this is that the law was intended only for miscarriages. Miscarriages, which are a spontaneous, natural abortion, differ from legal abortions in that they are often unwanted, which means families are already grieving their lost pregnancies — that lost potential to know who the fetuses would have grown up to become. This perverse way of acknowledging a fetus’ personhood becomes completely unnecessary.
Even more perverse is that, depending on the stage of pregnancy in which the miscarriage occurred, there might not be any remains to bury. Some women miscarry into toilets, where the tissue is barely distinguishable. When I was hospitalized for what I had thought was a miscarriage (an experience I wrote about here), the nurses had me sit on thick padding while I waited to be examined. Should that blood-soaked pads have been preserved in case there were fetal remains? I certainly didn’t want them.
If Pence and his sympathizers really want to respect human life, they should start by not elevating the rights of dead fetuses over those of their living mothers.
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