Lauren (1996) – USA

From Bearing Faith: The Limits of Catholic Health Care for Women of Color

Miscarrying woman almost dies after being denied termination at Catholic hospital

Laurie Bertram Roberts was twelve weeks pregnant when, fearing that she was experiencing a miscarriage, she rushed to the only hospital in her community, a Catholic facility. After examining her, the doctors told her to go home, rest, and return if she started to bleed. When she began bleeding heavily the next day she returned to the hospital. This time, providers performed an ultrasound and told Roberts that she was, in fact, having a miscarriage and that the fetus would not survive. Despite this, her attending doctors told her that they could not do anything to help her because the fetus still had a heartbeat. Laurie was sent home once again.

At home, Laurie continued to experience heavy bleeding and eventually lost consciousness. “I was on the phone with my mother when I passed out at my husband’s feet,” Laurie recalled. “All I can remember is honestly thinking this can’t be how I die.” Laurie was transported back to the same hospital a third time by ambulance. Finally, unable to detect a fetal heartbeat, the hospital provided Laurie with treatment for her miscarriage. At the time, Roberts was 18 years old, uninsured, and a low wage worker, so each visit imposed a significant financial burden. The experience nearly cost Laurie her life.

She only learned later that the hospital was subject to the “Ethical and Religious Directives for Catholic Health Care Services”, promulgated by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. Catholic hospitals generally do not inform patients they are receiving sub-standard care and that better options are available.

Read about Laurie on pg 6-7 in the report: Bearing Faith: The Limits of Catholic Health Care for Women of Color, by Kira Shepherd et al., 2018, Public Health Solutions.

More info at Jackson Free Press (2012)

The Women the Pro-Choice Movement Left Behind, By Mary Harris, Oct 26, 2020.