r. Jessika Ralph was waiting for her patient to get sick.
The young woman had arrived at Wheaton Franciscan-St. Joseph hospital in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, in labor. She was 18 weeks pregnant, and her twin fetuses were long from viable. She miscarried one fetus within hours of admission, but her labor stalled while the second still had a heartbeat. Because the hospital followed rules issued by the Catholic Church, until the patient hemorrhaged or showed at least two signs of infection—fever of 100.4 or higher, uterine tenderness, rapid heart rate, or rapid fetal heart rate—Ralph could do little except watch her sicken.
So Ralph’s team trimmed the umbilical cord from the miscarried twin as short as possible to minimize the infection risk, and waited overnight.
After about 10 hours, the patient’s temperature soared to 102 or 103 degrees, Ralph recalled in an interview with Rewire in June, a few months after the incident. Ralph and her team gave the patient medication to induce labor. But Ralph could not administer mifepristone, which the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) considers part of the most effective drug regimen for such cases. The Catholic hospital didn’t carry the drug, which is commonly used for medication abortions—a failure Ralph believes was religiously motivated and needlessly prolonged her patient’s labor.
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