Words that Hurt, Words that Heal Print
Written by P.J. Southam   

sad coupleMany of us know someone who has undergone the pain of a miscarriage. A child is conceived, a pregnancy occurs, and hopes begin for this new life. For a variety of reasons not all pregnancies carry through to term, and there is pain, and sorrow, and grief.  This is the loss of a child. The pain is as real as it is for a born child.  Often miscarriages are only known by a few: the woman, her physician, perhaps her partner and close confidants. The child is known and loved by God, and the Christian community can love and help during the grieving process.

When we grieve we sometimes hear thoughtless comments that cause additional pain. When we love well others who are grieving we will have words that help and not hurt. We can all learn how to help others grieve, and there are resources for that.

Unfortunately, thoughtlessness can happen out of the blue, opening wounds afresh, and causing pain. Recently a Colorado hospital chain called Catholic Health Initiatives made headlines when its lawyers argued in a lawsuit that an unborn child is not a human being. The hospital has since acknowledged that this was “morally wrong.” 

Jennifer Mason with the group Personhood Colorado received word on another case where a woman who had suffered a miscarriage had gone into a Catholic Health Initiatives hospital for treatment.  Instead of being billed for the miscarriage, she was billed for an elective abortion, which she says she did not receive. This caused the patient distress and additional grief, as well as the stress of being hounded by collection agencies and attorneys to pay this bill. Her insurance covers care for miscarriages, but not elective abortions. 

There are unanswered questions raised by this situation. Why is the hospital billing for an abortion when it claims it does not do them? Catholic hospitals are forbidden by the church from performing elective abortions. Was this a clerical error on the part of whoever coded the procedure for the insurance billing? If so, why was it not corrected quickly and resubmitted to the insurance company, rather than being turned over for collection? Is this hospital in fact performing elective abortions?

In medical insurance coding, there are clear and separate codes for miscarriage care and for elective abortions. Insurance companies and health care providers know exactly what they do and what they have paid for. In medical terminology there are several terms used for medical loss of an early pregnancy (miscarriage). These terms use the word “abortion” but to medical professionals it should be clear that they are referring to different occurrences. 

We can all learn from our mistakes, and can learn from the mistakes of others.  I hope that for anyone in the medical professions, and those involved in preparing insurance billing, that they will look at the pain caused by this mistake and be extra careful in their words and in their work.  May all of us be careful with our words that they may be gracious, loving, and healing words.

 The Rev. P.J. Southam is pastor of Big Creek Presbyterian Church and a member of the Board of Directors of Presbyterians Pro-Life.