For the Catholic Church Life Starts at Conception — Only When Convenient


"I didn't even get to hold them," said a tearful Jeremy Stodghill to CNN's Kyung Lah, "I have an autopsy picture … That's all I've got."

In the interview, Stodghill tells the tragic story of how he lost his wife, Lori, and the 28-week along unborn twin sons that were growing inside her in a Colorado hospital on New Year's Day in 2006. The misfortune left Stodghill alone to raise he and Lori's then two-year-old daughter, Libby.

When 31-year-old Lori Stodghill began to show signs that she needed medical attention, Mr. Stodghill rushed her to the emergency room of St. Thomas Moore Hospital in Canon City, Colorado. In the lobby of the emergency room, Lori went into full cardiac arrest from what was later determined to be the cause of a pulmonary embolism, her two unborn sons dying with her.

Stodghill sued the hospital and its owner, Catholic Health Initiatives, for the wrongful deaths of his wife and two unborn sons.

When Lah asks Stogdhill how many people the hospital says he lost that day, his response is sure to strike a nerve whether you are for or against abortion, based on the fact that the Church's long time pro-life rhetoric that life begins at conception:

"One. Since they weren't born, they weren't people. They did not qualify as a person."

After nearly two years of litigation, the hospital and doctors' defense attorney argued that under Colorado state law, an embryo is not a person until it is born alive, according to court documents.

Catholic Health Initiatives, who refused to speak to CNN on camera, gave this contradictory statement:

"In this case, as Catholic Organizations, we are in union with the moral teachings of the church."

This quote is consistent with the hospital's obligation to follow church teachings, being that it is a Catholic organization. The teachings, which are laid out in the Ethical and Religious Directives for Catholic Health Care Services from the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, state that abortions, contraceptive practices and direct sterilization are forbidden, among other things. The document also clearly states:

"Catholic health ministry witnesses the sanctity of life 'from the moment of conception until death.'"

So, according to Catholic doctrine, life begins at conception, and Catholic Health Initiatives are "in union" with these "moral teachings." But if you're trying to sue the church for wrongful death, life no longer begins at conception — the buck is passed to the state then. The hypocrisy of the Catholic Church fails to surprise me anymore.  

After Stodghill lost in the lower courts, the doctors and the hospital, under the ownership of Catholic Health Initiatives went after him for $118,000 in legal fees. If that's not adding insult to injury, I don't know what is. Stodghill is bankrupt and struggling to care for his now 9-year-old daughter while still mourning the loss of his wife and twin boys.

In the context of seriously undermining what it is the Church so vehemently preaches about the sanctity of life, the Catholic Bishops concerns of whether or not to argue an anti-Catholic position in this case seems appropriate. After all, if the Colorado Supreme Court, where the case has been appealed by Stodghill on the grounds of whether or not his twin boys are considered people under Colorado state law, rules in favor of the Catholic lawyers, who put forth the argument that fetuses are not people, the church could have just sunk its own ship by setting a precedent inconsistent with its beliefs.