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Margaret Mary McBride, a member of the Sisters of Mercy who concurred in an ethics committee’s decision to abort the fetus of a gravely ill woman at St. Joseph’s Hospital in Phoenix, Ariz., was “automatically excommunicated by that action,” said Bishop Thomas J. Olmsted of Phoenix in a statement on May 14. The patient, who has not been identified, was 11 weeks pregnant and suffering from pulmonary hypertension, a condition that the hospital said carried a near-certain risk of death for the mother if the pregnancy continued. “If there had been a way to save the pregnancy and still prevent the death of the mother, we would have done it. We are convinced there was not,” said a letter to Bishop Olmsted on May 17 from top officials at Catholic Healthcare West, the San Francisco-based health system to which the hospital belongs. But the bishop said that “the direct killing of an unborn child is always immoral, no matter the circumstances, and it cannot be permitted in any institution that claims to be authentically Catholic.”

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