Alaska pro-life groups reunite after resolving controversy over ‘early induction’ procedure
ANCHORAGE, Alaska (Catholic Anchor) - After several tense years between the Anchorage Archdiocese and the largest pro-life organization in Alaska, 2007 saw Archbishop Roger Schwietz and several prominent Catholic groups begin collaborating again with Alaska Right to Life to help protect unborn human life in Alaska.
REMEMBERING THE ABORTED - Children follow Knights of Columbus to lay roses at a headstone for unborn children at a pro-life rally Jan. 19 at the Anchorage Memorial Cemetery. (James McCrane)
This level of collaboration between pro-life Catholic groups and Alaska Right to Life seemed highly unlikely just three years ago, when in January 2005, the Knights of Columbus statewide deputy ordered all Knights councils in the Anchorage Archdiocese to suspend work with Alaska Right to Life.
Early induction stirs controversy
The Knights decided to part ways after Alaska Right to Life distributed a statement critical of Archbishop Schwietz during a 2005 pro-life prayer vigil, which the Knights coordinated.
Archbishop Schwietz led that service at Anchorage Memorial Park Cemetery. After the event he received an Alaska Right to Life flier, which asserted that he was allowing Providence Alaska Medical Center to perform abortions. It also stated that Alaska Right to Life “cannot join in any ceremony that includes the archbishop or his diocesan representatives.”
At issue was a nearly two-year controversy over a medical procedure at Providence Alaska Medical Center, which is part of the Seattle-based Providence Health System, operated by the Sisters of Providence.
The Providence procedure, called “early induction,” allowed pregnant women to choose to induce labor in certain limited cases, when an unborn child, suffering from anomalies incompatible with life, reaches the gestational age that would normally allow a healthy child to survive outside the womb.
Early induction was only permitted after both a team of doctors confirmed the child’s condition and a hospital ethics team reviewed the particulars of the case to ensure that inducing labor would conform to Catholic principles.
When it learned of the practice in 2003, Alaska Right to Life began picketing the hospital and claiming publicly that the facility performed abortions. The organization also asked Archbishop Schwietz to halt the procedure, which he has the authority to do.
The archbishop briefly imposed a moratorium on early inductions in late 2003.
Ethicists weigh in
Archbishop Schwietz then enlisted the help of the National Catholic Bioethics Center, a respected Boston organization that frequently provides ethical consultations for bishops to ensure that hospital practices are morally acceptable.
Over the next several months, ethicists from the center worked with Providence leadership to revise the hospital’s policy on early induction.
Consultations continued until all parties believed the policy was fully in compliance with Catholic moral teaching.
In 2004, Archbishop Schwietz lifted the moratorium on early induction at Providence. At the same time he sent a copy of the updated policy to the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, asking that they review it to ensure that it lined up with official Catholic doctrine.
Alaska Right to Life feared, however, that the hospital’s guidelines were still unclear and left the door open for potential abuses, such as aborting an unwanted child who might have severe physical deformities.
Tensions begin to resolve
Tension between Alaska Right to Life and the archdiocese began to resolve, however, in late 2006, when Mike Stafford, then president of Alaska Right to Life, met with Archbishop Schwietz to apologize for any actions or comments that his group had made against the archbishop or his character.
By early 2007, the Knights and Archbishop Schwietz finally received a response from Rome regarding the early induction procedure.
“Rome said they accepted our policies but they did have some different wording for the introduction,” Archbishop Schwietz told the Anchor.
The Vatican letter clarified the fact that early inductions are only permitted to save the life of the mother or to try and save the life of the child.
The benefit of having a response directly from Rome is that the local church and Providence can be assured that their policy is in full conformity with the teachings of the Catholic Church, Archbishop Schwietz said.
Early induction still available
After receiving the response from Rome, Archbishop Schwietz met again this past fall with members of the Knights of Columbus and Alaska Right to Life.
“The meeting was a dialogue so I could update them on the document from Rome,” Archbishop Schwietz said. “They also had a chance to hear some of the updates that I have received from Providence, which is that early induction has ceased there.”
Monica Anderson, Providence’s mission director for ...
Rate This Article
Leave a Comment
More Diocese News
- Newman Centers are anchor of faith at public colleges
- A Pinprick to Revive Devotion
- Family celebration: Utah women travel to India to meet with sponsored children
- Deportation of Wis. eighth-grader reveals immigration policy's painful side to class
- Mandatory drug testing to be implemented in Oklahoma City Catholic high schools
- Catechesis of the Good Shepherd ‘hands-on’ religious education gets a look in Texas
- Food versus fuel: Is biofuel production to blame for our present food shortage?
- Spirituality key to the dying patient’s ‘quality of life,’ says Catholic doctor
- Bioethics battle is between contrary visions of the human person, says Rome professor
- Fr. Paul Schenck: Finding Living Faith on Catechetical Sunday
- The Movie Yellow: Incest as 'Normal' and Cassavates's Slides Into the World of Woes
- The Chicago School Teachers Strike Reveals the Need For School Choice
- The Sexual Barbarians and the Dissolution of Culture
- The Happy Priest Challenges Us to Ask: Who is Jesus to Me?
- Michael Coren on Canadian Public Schools: Teachers, leave those kids alone
- We Cannot Ignore Our Consciences: Cardinal Dolan On Religious Liberty
- In the Face of Danger, Successor of Peter Travels to Lebanon as a Messenger of Peace
- Reflections on the Dignity and Vocation of Women: Who or What?