DENVER –  Officials at a Catholic hospital at the center of a wrongful death lawsuit and the state’s bishops issued a statement Monday acknowledging that it was “morally wrong” for the hospital to argue in Colorado court that twin fetuses that died in its care were not, under state law, human beings.
When the two-year-old court filing surfaced last month, it triggered an avalanche of criticism – because the hospital’s legal argument seemed to plainly clash with the church’s stance that life begins at conception.
But it is also now fueling an already raging debate in Colorado and beyond about whether fetuses should have legal rights and, if so, what kind.
Colorado’s bishops last week met with executives at Catholic Healthcare Initiatives, a branch of the church that operates St. Thomas More Medical Center in Canon City, the hospital at the center of the case, to review how the lawsuit was handled. The two released separate statements Monday saying CHI executives had been unaware of the legal arguments and pledging to “work for comprehensive change in Colorado’s law, so that the unborn may enjoy the same legal protections as other persons.”
Spurred on by advancing medical technology that makes fetuses more viable and more visible, states have been expanding some rights to fetuses, sometimes in conjunction with anti-abortion groups and the Catholic Church.
State laws vary widely. It’s difficult to quantify how many states allow wrongful death lawsuits on behalf of unborn children because each state has different case law and judicial interpretation. A report from the anti-abortion Americans United for Life estimates that 38 permit such lawsuits.
According to The Guttmacher Institute, which tracks reproductive health issues, 37 states allow some form of [...]