Today is the feast of St Raymond of Penyafort, the Dominican patron saint of Canon Lawyers (let the law jokes commence!). On this day, I am always reminded of another St Raymond (not a Dominican but a member of the ancient Order of Mercy). This Raymond was known as "Raymond the Unborn" (
Raymond Nonnatus) since he was delivered by an emergency procedure after the death of his mother. St Raymond (patron of the Diocese of Joliet, IL) is, reasonably enough, invoked when medical crises arise during pregnancy. I've been praying to him and to Bl. John Paul II these days for uber-blogger Jennifer Fulwiler, who is just being released from the hospital (again) and is under continuing treatment for multiple pulmonary embolisms. She is expecting her sixth child (it's a boy!) and has had to undergo daily shots during each of her pregnancies because of a blood-clotting disorder. So she's a candidate, if ever there was one, for St Raymond's intercession. (UPDATE: There is now a Paypal donate button if you would like to help the Fulwilers pay for Jennifer's hugely expensive injections. Part of the issue with her unusually rough time this year may be related to the fact that this year she was using a generic version of the medication; all her previous, relatively uneventful pregnancies were helped along with the name-brand medicine. I hope her insurance company has learned a lesson about cost-cutting now that they have two hospitalizations and a three month follow-up to contend with.)
Jennifer started the year, as she has for a few years now, by programming a random patron-saint generator. Spin the wheel, so to speak, and get assigned a special saint for the new year. She dialed up St. Michael, and the next day found herself in the hospital. "Defend us in battle," indeed. But that situation got me thinking. With her own well-being threatened, along with that of her unborn son, wouldn't Jennifer need to be "defended in battle," not just in a fight for health, but the fight against the temptation that surely some people in the medical profession were muttering under their breath, "Just 'take care of it' so you can go back to your family. You already have five kids who need a mother..." Abortion seems to be the first treatment option many women are offered when a pregnancy-related complication threatens them. Isn't the health of the mother a valid reason?
The weird thing is that in first world nations where abortion is legalized or restrictions loosened, maternal survival rates worsen. Ireland, which has (up to now) extremely strict limits on abortion (it is legal, but only within carefully defined circumstances), has the lowest maternal mortality rates in the world. It is #1 in terms of maternal health. You know where the US stands? Somewhere around #34, right up there with Bulgaria. When Chile outlawed abortion in 1989, their maternal mortality rate dropped so far, so fast, that their maternal survival rates are the best in Latin America.
What is going on? It is hard to avoid the conclusion that access to abortion dulls the medical community's interest in researching the real problems that threaten pregnant women and the unborn. As abortion becomes the default recommendation for difficult cases, the wisdom of earlier generations is not handed down. Less energy and resources are invested in truly understanding the underlying causes and remedies for serious issues that continue to threaten women's health, especially during pregnancy.
If that is so, today would be a good day to pray to St. Raymond "the Unborn" for medical researchers in the specialized areas of maternal health.