After years of trying to get pregnant, Michelle and Josh were heartbroken to learn their first pregnancy would not survive. To add insult to injury, the Catholic hospital in Mission Viejo, California where they were being treated shamed them, judged their choices, and delayed Michelle’s medical care, thereby threatening her health.

“My husband and I had been trying for years to have a child. As soon as we found out I was pregnant, our doctor told us the egg had implanted outside my uterus—an ectopic pregnancy. We were devastated to learn that if the pregnancy continued, I could die.

Our doctor wanted to treat me right away using a relatively simple outpatient process. Unfortunately, our doctor could only treat me at the nearby Mission Hospital, part of St. Joseph Health, which required that I undergo a series of additional ultrasounds, tests, bloodwork, and paperwork to ensure I wasn’t trying to get an abortion. The doctor said, “This is the treatment. This is the standard, but the hospital said they don’t want to be a part of that.”

Instead of getting the simple, straightforward treatment my doctor wanted, my husband and I faced a wall of red tape. And delaying treatment of an ectopic pregnancy would have put my health and life at risk. It was a question of my survival versus an embryo that’s in the wrong place and has no chance of surviving. For them to pass judgment, to question if I’m just making up an excuse for termination, is insulting. This religious institution imposed their version of morality on me. I was so angry that they were trying to shame me and call me a liar.

Instead of getting medically required treatment from my doctor in the hospital in my own community, I had to find a new ob-gyn and undergo a more invasive procedure under general anesthesia. The loss of the pregnancy was painful enough. But this delay forced me to take time off work and incur not only additional medical expenses, but also the emotional and mental burden of anxiously waiting to terminate a much-desired pregnancy that could not survive. I was going through such a hard time, and they made it worse.

This situation rocked my faith in the medical profession, and has made me and my husband question whether we can continue to try to have a family. We’ve considered giving up because we don’t want to be in the situation in which we are denied care because some religion we don’t even belong to tells us what morality is. We are telling our story today because we want people to know they are not alone. That they do not need to take on the judgment or shaming of the people who are supposed to care for them. If our story can help one person feel less alone and perhaps make a change, then it will be worth it.”