Catholic Hospital Belittled for Burying Miscarried Babies

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by David Nussman  •  ChurchMilitant.com  •  April 26, 2018   

Secular news casts Catholic practice in strange, negative light

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AUSTIN, Texas (ChurchMilitant.com) - Secular news sources are complaining about a Catholic hospital that buries miscarried babies.

Seton Medical Center Austin has the practice of burying the bodies of unborn children who died in miscarriages.

A recent hit-piece in The Texas Observer slammed Seton for this practice, accusing the hospital of pro-life "indoctrination."

The April 16 article constantly refers to unborn babies' corpses as "fetal remains" and expresses horror at the idea of a Catholic hospital burying the corpses instead of incinerating them and tossing them out as "medical waste."

The Texas Observer claimed this practice heightens the emotional trauma of a miscarriage. It cited the example of Blake Norton, whose mother, according to the Observer, "happens to be" a Democrat politician serving in the Texas House of Representatives.

Norton sought treatment at Seton Medical Center Austin in 2015 after her unborn baby died but the corpse remained inside her womb. She was shocked when hospital personnel asked her to sign off on paperwork about the burial of the unborn baby's body. She could arrange a funeral herself or the hospital could take care of the burial for free. The Observer comments, "What had been a medical procedure suddenly felt like a religious rite, compounding the grief she was only beginning to process."

The hit-piece also notes, "Quietly, for more than 10 years, Seton has required the burial of all fetal remains after miscarriages. It's widely known that Seton, which follows the ethical and religious directives of the Catholic Church, doesn't perform abortions or offer contraceptives."

An article in Becker's Hospital Review covering the Observer piece stated, "Seton Medical Center Austin (Texas), the city's largest medical and surgical acute care center and part of Catholic health system giant Seton Healthcare, requires patients who miscarry to consent to holding fetal burials, The Texas Observer reports."

It's widely known that Seton, which follows the ethical and religious directives of the Catholic Church, doesn't perform abortions or offer contraceptives.

Seton spokesperson Adrienne Lallo asked the Observer to consider, "What would happen normally? What would people like us to do other than offer free burial?"

"If people don't want the remains buried in a Catholic cemetery, they can take responsibility for handling the remains," Lallo explained. "If they don't take responsibility for that, it's taken care of by the health care system."

"It's important to emphasize that we're trying to do the right thing, by taking care of folks mainly who are disconsolate, and already dealing with a lot."

Lallo also said, "If they don't make a decision even after we follow up, we'll proceed with a respectful burial. Because that's the way we are comfortable caring for the remains."

The Observer quoted several Austin-area medical professionals who disagree with Seton's policy of burying miscarried babies. Diana Weihs, an Austin OB-GYN, read off Seton's policy and mocked it by saying, "You still have to do this! Oh my God, it is kooky."

Weihs and her business partner, Karen Swenson, founded their own women's health practice in 1985. Nowadays, when one of their patients suffers a miscarriage, they make sure to refer her somewhere other than Seton.

Swenson complained to the Observer, "There are crosses everywhere" hanging on the walls at Seton.

Swenson went on to argue that patients who come to Seton "think they're in a health-care facility and that the religious part is the practice of medicine in a compassionate and caring way, not the following of religious and ethical directives of the Catholic Church."

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