June 1, 2010— -- Sister Margaret McBride was forced to make a decision between her faith and a woman's life last year, when a 27-year-old mother of four rushed into St. Joseph's Hospital in Phoenix only 11 weeks pregnant.
"I think [McBride] prayed and prayed and I'm sure that this weighed on her like a ton of bricks. This was not an easy decision for her," says her long-time friend Mary Jo Macdonald.
As a key member of the hospital's ethics board, McBride gathered with doctors in November of 2009 to discuss the young woman's fate.
The mother was suffering from pulmonary hypertension, an illness the doctors believed would likely kill her and, as a result, her unborn child, if she did not abort the pregnancy.
In the end, McBride chose to save the young woman's life by agreeing to authorize an emergency abortion, a decision that has now forced her out of a job and the Catholic Church.
Despite being described as "saintly," "courageous," and the "moral conscience" of the Catholic hospital, McBride was excommunicated from the Catholic Church by Phoenix Bishop Thomas J. Olmsted for supporting the abortion.
"An unborn child is not a disease ... the end does not justify the means," Olmsted said in a statment issued to a the Arizona Republic newspaper this past May.
Hospital officials defended McBride's actions and released a statement saying, "In this tragic case, the treatment necessary to save the mother's life required the termination of an 11-week pregnancy."
Although many medical ethicists say it was the right decision, the hospital confirmed McBride has been removed from her position as senior administrator and reassigned.
Critics are arguing McBride's punishment is a double standard. Many are pointing out that it has often taken years for priests who sexually abuse children to be even reprimanded, let alone excommunicated.
Nun Excommunicated for Permitting Abortion to Save Mother's Life
"It's very disturbing to me to see how the pedophiles cases have been handled and yet how fast the bishop came out and excommunicated Sister Margaret McBride," her friend saidd.
Many experts in canon law, the Catholic legal system, say McBride's decision is admissible.
"All the bishop focused on was the abortion, not on the other circumstances -- included that the mother was almost certainly going to die," canon lawyer Father Thomas Doyle.
But right now only the Phoenix Diocese ruling stands and she is no longer a member of the Catholic Church.
For a devout woman who spent years dedicated to her religion, serving the poor, the sick and the needy, McBride is paying the ultimate sacrifice for her decision to help another life; she is no longer allowed to receive the sacraments.