Abortion in cases where the mother's life is in danger

Hey everyone. I have been participating on a forum on a different website where abortion is being discussed. The discussion has evolved to where they are discussing a situation with me concerning abortion to save the life of a mother. Basically it would seem that they believe that there are situations where an abortion is necessary to save the life of the mother. From what I understand, the Catholic Church teaches that all abortions are intrinsically evil. Is that true? Also, I have heard the term “direct abortion” and I think “indirect abortion” before. Are they both considered morally equivalent? If “indirect abortion” is not considered to be intrinsically evil, would an “indirect abortion” be morally acceptable to save the life of the mother? Thanks in advance for your help in this regard.

Indirect abortion is a therapeutic procedure in which as a secondary effect the embrio dies. The objective of the procedure is not to kill the baby but to save the mother, and My understanding is that in ectopic pregnacies the doctor may remove the fallopian tube to save the mother ’ s life and the embrio will die shortly after this. The intention of the procedure is not to kill the embrio while in a direct abortion the intention is to kill. In an indirect abortion the embrio dies as a secondary effect while in a direct, the objective is to kill. ( hopefully this is well explained, and I’m sure more people will go.deepen into this to help you ).

It is true that all abortions are intrinsically evil. However my understanding is (and if I am not correct someone please.correct me) in situations where the mother’ s life is in imminently in danger and we know that if nothing is done both mother and baby are going to die, the doctors can attempt to save the mother’s.life by therapeutic means that don’t attempt to kill the baby directly. Pretty much I think this boils down to ectopic pregnacies and eclampsia where it is known that if the embrio or fetus remains in, both are going to die and there is no other way in the world to save them. Ectopic pregnacies as I said the removal of the fallopian tube is permissible and eclampsia usually a.c-section is performed, in the eclampsia case the.baby may not survive depending on how many weeks has but the doctors are not directly killing the baby, basically the baby is dying out of natural causes. An example of an impermissible direct abortion to save the mother’s life would be performing an abortion at 21 weeks, here the doctor is directly killing the baby, this is sinful and intrinsically evil. While if the doctor performs a c-section the baby may have a chances to survive, even though the chance is low but there have been babies that survive at 21 weeks, so the baby is given a chance to live. However if the baby doesn’t survive the death would be the result of natural causes not because the doctor killed the baby. Hope this helps!

Good question. A similar thing happened in the Dominican Republic, very staunchly Catholic, God-fearing country, where a teen was pregnant but also had lymphoma. They wouldn’t end the pregnancy to do chemo, so she died and it caused a raging firestorm around the world.

So…I really don’t know. If truly, truly needed like above, then maybe, I guess.

Direct abortion seems to be the term for what we call abortion: an act taken to end the life of the child in the womb, and indirect abortion seems to be the term for the loss of the unborn child due to other actions taken.

So, if a woman has cancer, receives treatment, and as a result of the treatment the baby dies, they are calling this indirect abortion.

I personally think this language, which I never heard before a year or two ago, has been developed to obscure the issue.

If a woman’s life is in danger, treatment can be instituted, even if the loss of the baby is possible or probably. However, taking action to kill the baby is not treatment for the mother’s illness.

The principle of double effect holds for these sort of cases, where an action is taken with two effects; one good, one bad.

Each case is different, but the general principle is that no action can be undertaken to directly and intentionally kill (abort) the unborn.

Contrast the case where a pregnant woman has uterine cancer, and both will die without medical intervention to a case where a pregnant woman has a severe cardiac condition.

In the case of the uterine cancer, the intended effect is to effect a cure through removal of the cancerous uterus, and the death of the embryo is an expected and unintended effect. Such is permissible.

In the case of the pregnant cardiac patient, an abortion would not treat the cardiac disease, nor is it a certainty that she would not survive a C-section or childbirth. The intent of the action, although to help the patient, is also to remove the fetus/embryo, whereas in the uterine cancer patient, the intent is to remove the cancerous uterus.

Again, every case is different. In the case of the pregnant teen with lymphoma, **assuming **that she could be cured or put into remission with medical treatment and **assuming **that such would have a high probability or certainty of death to the embryo, it may have been morally permissible to have the chemo although as an unintended but foreseeable second effect the embryo/fetus would die.

It’s difficult sometimes to discuss generalities with specific cases, since there are usually unknowns; which type of lymphoma did the teen have? Was she likely to be cured or put in remission with treatment? What type of treatments were available to her? Did she have an understanding of her medical condition? What role did her parents have? Her doctor(s)?

In order to discuss moral generalities, one has to make at least a few assumptions regarding the circumstances of a particular case. In the question of “does the Church allow for abortion in the case when a mother’s life is in danger?”, the answer is no, if we define abortion as the direct, intentional termination of the life of the unborn. If we change that definition, such as with “indirect abortion” (unintentional), then the answer becomes “it depends on the circumstances and intentions”.

The life of the unborn is to be treasured because he cannot defend himself.

Besides, abortion is murder, and murder can never be justified. For doctors, this comes with their Hippocratic oath: primum, non nocere, first, do not harm.

I’ve read that medically, there has been nothing identified where a condition would necessitate an abortion to save a woman’s life. So other than the very broad and purely hypothetical “abortion to save a mother’s life,” there has been no actual scenario where this is true. I guess the closest is an ectopic pregnancy. But in that case, the baby would die anyway.

I agree with this. There is no medical ailment that is directly caused by the fact that the baby is alive where treatment would be the death of the baby. If such were so, then the moment the baby died, the mother would be healed, which is never the case. The only instances involving the child causing the mother issues mostly deal with where the child is located. So, abortion to save the mother’s life is a crock, and just a ploy to appeal to people’s emotions to allow abortions to be legal so that other people can freely have abortions for mere convenience.

If they treated her with chemo and the baby died, wouldn’t that be an indirect abortion, since the intent wasn’t to abort the baby?


I wouldn’t be so sure of this.

what you both are saying is incorrect. Yes, there is one, and that condition is called Eclampsia. If the baby is not removed out the mother’s body the mother will die as it is the child in and of itself that is causing the mother’s body to.enter into.convulsions until she dies and nothing can stop it. BUT and this is a big big BUT, eclampsia very rarely presents itself before 20 or 21 week therefore now a days given that this is right on the border of viability, doctors usually would perform a c-section to give the baby the chance to survive. So while there is a condition that is directly caused by the baby’s presence there is an alternative and licit option to save the mother’s life and I have never heard of a case that involves eclampsia under 19 weeks so the option should definitely be a c-section.

The other ailment is ectopic pregnancies where the embrio is going to die anyway and can cause the rupture of the tube and if that happens the mother will die. But as I said in this case removal of the tube before rupture would be the licit option.

There are cases in which a pregnancy can magnify and further complicate conditions in the mother, but the first line of treatment is trying to treat the symptoms until viability. Today we have medications and treatments to help, but of course, they’re not always successful. For example, a woman with heart problems, or pulmonary edema, etc. can definitely have her condition worsened by pregnancy. So it’s not true that medically there isn’t a condition that would necessitate an abortion, even though the odds are in her favor. But that’s besides the point. If the Church doesn’t allow abortion, then abortion isn’t allowed. It doesn’t really matter why one would seek it if no conditions are allowed by the Church to have one.

Keep in mind though, that in situations where the woman’s health is at risk in other religions (such as for Jewish or Muslim women), abortion though considered evil, is allowed. In fact, if the woman is Jewish, it would be expected to do everything possible to save the woman, and if she requires an abortion, it would a sin in that religion not to do so.

Thank you everyone. From what I am understanding there are only two conditions in which the removal of the unborn child is or can be necessary: eclampsia and ectopic pregnancy. In the case of an ectopic pregnancy, if I understand correctly, the fallopian tube with the implanted embryo/fetus can be removed which would indirectly cause the death of the fetus and this would not be morally objectionable because of the principle of double effect. In the case of eclampsia, if I understand correctly, it never happens before 20 or 21 weeks and that is right at the beginning of when the unborn child/fetus is viable and so a c-section can be performed in order to try to save the life of baby and the mother. After the c-section, necessary medical care can be given to to the baby so that he/she will survive. The baby isn’t guaranteed to survive at this seriously premature stage but the baby does have a chance. Since the baby is not being directly murdered/killed, this treatment that I discussed would also be morally acceptable. Am I understanding things correctly?

Yes what you mention is correct.
Also, hollie keep in mind what newbie2 mentions, with the use of the doctrine of double effect you have to look at the circumstances. And in the case of utterine cancer as he said the removal of the uterus would be permitted. Finally, I would not say that eclampsia never happens before 20 weeks. Very rarely happens before 20 weeks. I did another Google search again to check how common is before 20 weeks and again everything just says very rare, and it seems is almost unheard of but just to be on the safe side, say very rarely instead of never.

Oh okay. So does the medical community in general think that abortion is necessary for eclampsia prior to 20 weeks? If it is not something they say is an absolute necessity to kill the unborn child, what can be done? Can they wait until the unborn child reaches a state of viability and then a c-section is done and they attempt to save the child’s life?

Murdering the mother when the baby’s life is in danger…?

Would we entertain that?

Holly, others here have given you great information, but if I may I’d like to give you a practical point in regards to the tactics being used against you.

While the circumstances you describe are real events, you have to not allow the pro-abortion people debating you not to make a rule out of these exceptions. They’re taking the tact that any circumstance that confounds the absolute truth that abortion is evil makes your position invalid.

Don’t let them do that to you. It’s a false argument. The fact is that ectopic pregnancy and other difficulties that happen in pregnancy are very rare in the overall context. And that either way all absolute moral principles must be considered in light of intent and circumstances. But all three must be right.

Just because hard cases exist can never mean that we can relativise the moral evil of abortion.

Thanks everyone for your posts. You have helped as regards the doubts that were caused on that other website’s forum.

Have to be careful what terminology we use here; “abortion” for most implies a purposeful action. If a human embryo/fetus dies secondarily to complications of whatever type of therapy (medial or surgical), in order to be crystal clear on the intent, perhaps it’s better to say it was “secondary to treatment” or “an unintended side effect of treatment” rather than try to define “indirect abortion”.

“Indirect abortion” is sometimes used to describe “chemical abortion” in contrast to surgical abortion.

We need to be VERY careful not to give even the slightest indication that it is morally acceptable to purposefully terminate the life of the unborn “because (it) is going to die anyway”. I understand your point in context of the discussion (i.e. unintended death of the embryo/fetus as a foreseen but unintended side effect of treatment of mom), but be aware that such an implication, unintended as it is, opens the door to abortion as a “mercy killing” of unborn babies who have severe, fatal birth defects.

Again prior to 20 weeks should be extremely rare because I can’t find anything that speaks about preeclampsia or eclampsia before 20 weeks. So I would recommend you not to fall into that trap, keep in mind that the earliest premature baby who has survived was born at 19 weeks which shows that more and more the viability is getting earlier and earlier. And you can even bring to any person arguing with you about this, that the mother of the baby born at 19 weeks (from.Florida) had to LIE and tell in the hospitalthat she was 21 weeks because had the doctors found out she was 19 weeks they wouldn’t have given the baby proper care. The mentality of abortionists has ended up in mothers having to lie to get proper medical care. How many babies at 19 or 20 weeks are dying because of lack of proper care due to doctors believing they are not persons and don’t have a right to life? That is good point to bring to any pro abortionist.

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