I originally wrote about this in 2012,
but wanted to update it given our present political climate.
When I was living in Washington, D.C., I was part of a women’s group that joined with the ACLU and the family of Angie Carder to petition the District of Columbia Court of Appeals to re-hear a case where they, for all intents and purposes, sentenced a mother to death in order to save her unborn child. I was serving as the president of the women’s group at the time and I still have nightmares about this case when I think of what she and her family went through.
This took place in 1987 at the Jesuit run Georgetown Hospital. Angie Carder had been diagnosed with cancer at the age of thirteen, but she was a fighter! After many surgeries, radiation, and chemo, she survived. At twenty-seven she married and became pregnant. At twenty-five weeks pregnant, she was diagnosed with advanced lung cancer and entered the hospital where she was told the cancer was terminal. She asked for help to carry her baby to twenty-eight weeks so that it would be viable. The doctors seemed to agree.
But then, six days later, the pro-life medical staff and Jesuits who ran the hospital decided to pursue a court ordered C-section after neither Angie nor her family would consent. They wanted to save the baby despite the mother’s desire to continue to carry it for two more weeks until it would be far more viable. Her family, including her husband, supported the mother’s desire.
Her husband and parents asked the Court of Appeal judges to support the mother’s wishes. The mother testified that Angie would fight hard enough “to live long enough to hold the baby.” The Court of Appeals refused to honor the mother’s and her family’s wishes. The hospital actually argued in court (absolutely lied in court!) that they heard the mother say she didn’t want the baby to live and so a C-section must be pursued to protect the child from the mother.
The court sided with the hospital and ordered the C-section. Judge Emmet Sullivan (yes, the same conservative judge that sentenced Michel Flynn) ordered the hospital to perform the operation. “I have an obligation to give that fetus an opportunity to live,” he said. “I have ruled.”
As expected, the mother did not survive the effects of the operation. Angie had a heart attack on the operating table. Then died two days later after regaining consciousness only to learn that her baby girl, Lindsey Marie Carder had died. She wept when told the news. Furthermore, when the doctors saw the condition of the baby’s lungs, they gave her to the father to hold until she died two hours later. They didn’t even try to save her – there was no point.
So . . . when I hear that the government (and or doctors or even pro-life Jesuits) will dare make decisions about women’s bodies, it overwhelms me with disgust. Women must have the right to make their own decisions. It is not for the government to decide if carrying a baby is a big enough health risk or not. Nor do I think she should have to prove if she was raped or not. She has to have the last word on that determination too. It is a decision no one has the moral right to make for her. No one.
The good news is that because of the lawsuit, in the District of Columbia, women have now been safe from their doctors or hospitals seeking court ordered care for them for about thirty years. Obviously, in states like Georgia and Alabama with their new anti-choice laws, pregnant women are not safe.
April Love-Fordham is a progressive Christian author,
living in Georgia. Learn more about her and her books here.