The Diocese of Phoenix has stripped St. Joseph's Hospital of its affiliation with the Catholic Church following a surgery that ended a women's pregnancy to save her life.
Bishop Thomas Olmsted said the operation was an abortion and a violation of the religious and ethical directives of the Catholic Church.
"Instead of treating the disease, St. Joseph's medical staff and ethics committee decided that the healthy 11-week-old baby should be directly killed," Olmsted said.
Doctors at St. Joseph's said if her pregnancy had not been terminated, both the 27-year-old woman and the baby would likely have died because of the woman's heart condition.
Bishop Olmsted excommunicated Sister Margaret McBride, the nun and senior hospital administrator who approved the procedure. But it has been a year of tense negotiations over the hospital's Catholic affiliation.
"Our first priority is to save both patients. If that is not possible, we always save the life we can save," said Linda Hunt, CEO of St. Joseph's.
"In the end, the things that he wanted us to do really were impossible," Dr. Charles Alfano said.
The Catholic Church doesn't give any direct funding to the hospital. But this separation means the hospital can no longer hold mass in its chapel.
The medical community is standing behind the hospital, which made headlines earlier this year for helping to save the life of rock star Bret Michaels, following his brain hemorrhage.
"The bishop, rabbis, and other people have really no place when it comes to deciding if a mother is going to live over an unborn child or whether to die," Dr. Jacques Moritz, an obstetrician and gynecologist, said.
"That decision is usually made by the healthcare professionals and it is best if it's left that way," he said.