HOUSTON, Texas (ChurchMilitant.com) - A caregiver has been dismissed from a Texas hospital for encouraging a pregnant woman not to get an abortion.
Jennie Drude worked at St. Luke's Hospital in Woodlands as a professional baby photographer with Mom365, a company specializing in family portraits. Jennie is also a respected volunteer in the greater Houston infant loss community, delivering keynote speeches to the bereaved and often mentoring mothers who are carrying babies afflicted with anencephaly, a condition in which a baby is born without parts of the brain and skull. Two of Jennie's six children have died from anencephaly.
"We had to pull my youngest child out of preschool and we are now struggling to make ends meet," she told Church Militant, after St. Luke's banned her from returning as a contracted photographer.
Anencephaly can be diagnosed during pregnancy, or might not be diagnosed until after the baby is born. There is no known cure or standard treatment for the condition, and almost all babies born with it die shortly after birth. Once thought to be caused by genetic factors, experts now look to environmental factors. It often appears in geographic clusters around the world, including the Texas border.
Jennie told Church Militant that her "banishment" from St. Luke's Hospital began on Oct. 19, when she met a woman ("Sandy") who had just been informed her 21-week baby had anencephaly. Sandy had been referred to Jennie by another mother whom Jennie had helped.
Jennie met Sandy for coffee as she had done "countless times with other moms who have lost babies or are carrying a baby with a life-limiting diagnosis."
While she commiserated with the mother, Sandy expressed frustration with the inadequate options presented to her by Dr. Sara Gibson, the attending physician, and with the inappropriate way Dr. Gibson presented them.
Gibson had told her she had two options: carrying her baby to term or going to a Houston clinic for an abortion. The procedure, known as "KCL" involves injecting potassium chloride into the uterus into the baby's heart. It is a process comparable to lethal injections used in execution of prisoners, but is not 100% effective.
Sandy claimed Dr. Gibson pushed her toward the KCL procedure — since she didn't want to go full-term — and when Sandy did not show up for her KCL appointment, Dr. Gibson was angry and at some point in the exchange called Sandy a "liar."
At the end of their coffee meeting, Jennie directed Sandy to Judy Brown, director of Women's and Children's Services at Saint Luke's, to help Sandy resolve the "either full-term or KCL procedure" dilemma.
When Sandy contacted the director, she merely referred her back to Jennie. In a subsequent meeting with Judy and Gibson, "the doctor was CLEARLY furious at Jennie" for explaining Sandy's rights and options.
On Oct. 23, Jennie received a phone call from her supervisor at Mom365: "Judy from St. Luke's called and told us you are no longer allowed at St. Luke's," claiming that Jennie had been "unprofessional" in her dealings with Sandy.
Now Jennie is without a job and income.
This whole situation has been a slap in the face for me. I have referred many patients to [St. Luke's] and have dedicated countless hours as a volunteer, serving the infant loss community there. I have often said St. Luke's in the Woodlands is my happy place. It's the only place in the world I have seen all six of my children. That has all changed now because of one doctor's lack of compassion and respect for informed consent.
Sandy delivered her baby last week via compassionate induction* at another hospital. She is currently grieving the loss of her child and recovering from delivery.
"It is unfortunate that this doctor's ego has affected my family in this way," Jennie said, but "I do not regret my decision to help this mom, because I just look at it as being a good human being — it's our job to help others."
*Compassionate induction is considered abortion according to Church teaching and involves early induction and delivery of the baby, allowing the child to die.