An abortion question...


Please help me to answer a question for myself and someone else:

If a pregnancy is harmful to the mother, and she cannot carry to term without grave danger, delivery is often induced early. For example, there could be problems with blood pressure (pre-eclampsia) that will make going 40 weeks difficult. Obviously, the longer the baby stays in the womb, the better, so doctors try to wait as long as possible. I’m pretty sure that it’s absolutely alright to induce a few weeks early (35 weeks or so.)

But, at what point does this cross the line? I believe a rare couple of babies born at 21 weeks have survived, but they are in the extreme minority.

So, if the odds of the baby surviving are less than 10%, is it a sin to induce early delivery if it looks like waiting even one more week will likely kill the mother?

What if the baby is only 18 weeks along and there is no chance of survival? Is it a sin to induce delivery, or is this the same thing as an abortion, even though the intention is not to kill the baby, but to alleviate the mother’s life-threatening condition?

If this question has been asked and answered before, could you provide a link or anything that might back up your replies? Thank you!


It’s not a sin to try and save a life. It is a sin to try and take a life.


OK… but could you expand on that a bit?
I know it’s OK to remove the tube containing and ectopic pregnancy, which has the side effect of killing the baby. Is an early induction (before 20 weeks) the same thing?


What is the intention of the operation?

I’m not sure that you’re right about ectopic pregnancy either;

*“Nothing and no one can in any way permit the killing of an innocent human being, whether a fetus or an embryo, an infant or an adult, an old person, or one suffering from an incurable disease, or a person who is dying. Furthermore, no one is permitted to ask for this act of killing, either for himself or herself or for another person entrusted to his or her care, nor can he or she consent to it, either explicitly or implicitly. Nor can any authority legitimately recommend or permit such an action” ~Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Declaration on Euthanasia Iura et Bona *(5 May 1980), II: AAS 72 (1980), 546.

You may find it useful to familiarise yourself with the contents of *Evangelium Vitae *(The Gospel of Life); Pope John Paul II’s Encyclical Letter of 1995 (especially Paragraph 57).

Hopeful, something this personal should really be discussed with a priest, or, if that’s not possible or you want a definitive answer, you might be better off asking a specific question in the “ask an apologist” section- you post a question and it will dissapear on the forum until someone at CAF answers it. This explains how it works and what to do.


I also found this thread which you might find informative

Also this article:

Your own situation seems to dictate that your friend would be having an early delivery in order to save the child and reduce the risk to the mother which seems all good to me, as long as it is the intention.


It depends on the individual situation. Generally speaking, the age continues to get lower every year as new medical advances are made. It is not safe for the baby for the mother to die; that puts the baby in grave danger.


Well, with the hypothetical situation of 18 weeks gestation, and mother is in eminent danger of death, to induce labor would…

A) save the life of the mother
B) kill the baby (who, if it is even born alive, would die shortly after birth even with the best care.)

At 21 weeks or so, you may have a small chance of saving the life of the baby. I was just wondering if the “double effect” thing applies to early induction in cases where the baby’s chances are slim-to-none.


Yes, the OP is right about ectopic pregnancy:

There is no treatment available that can guarantee the life of both. The Church has moral principles that can be applied in ruling out some options, but she has not officially instructed the faithful as to which treatments are morally licit and which are illicit. Most reputable moral theologians, as discussed below, accept full or partial salpingectomy (removal of the fallopian tube), as a morally acceptable medical intervention in the case of a tubal pregnancy.

It is not required that a mother attempt to carry a tubal pregancy to term, thus putting her life in serious jeopardy.

The intent in this case, as well as in inducing premature labor to save the mother, is not the death of the child.



From the brief look into I had there Dante it seemed that there are a few proceedures avaliable, one was chemical abortion- which clearly is not acceptable, the other removes the damaged tissue, the baby will die, but it was not killed by any action, we simply are unable to save it.


What is wrong w/ the hypothetical mom? Why can’t they treat whatever is wrong? Why is inducing the only option?—KCT


Agreed… there are so many tradeoffs and alternatives in reality… rarely, if ever, are there ONLY just the two extreme options.


I was gonna try to explain but New Advent Catholic Encyclopedia do it much better.

Here’s the important part from the article:

…if medical treatment or surgical operation, necessary to save a mother’s life, is applied to her organism (though the child’s death would, or at least might, follow as a regretted but unavoidable consequence), it should not be maintained that the fetal life is thereby directly attacked. Moralists agree that we are not always prohibited from doing what is lawful in itself, though evil consequences may follow which we do not desire. The good effects of our acts are then directly intended, and the regretted evil consequences are reluctantly permitted to follow because we cannot avoid them. The evil thus permitted is said to be indirectly intended. It is not imputed to us provided four conditions are verified, namely:

1)That we do not wish the evil effects, but make all reasonable efforts to avoid them;
2)That the immediate effect be good in itself;
3)That the evil is not made a means to obtain the good effect; for this would be to do evil that good might come of it – a procedure never allowed;
3)That the good effect be as important at least as the evil effect.

All four conditions may be verified in treating or operating on a woman with child. The death of the child is not intended, and every reasonable precaution is taken to save its life; the immediate effect intended, the mother’s life, is good – no harm is done to the child in order to save the mother – the saving of the mother’s life is in itself as good as the saving of the child’s life. Of course provision must be made for the child’s spiritual as well as for its physical life, and if by the treatment or operation in question the child were to be deprived of Baptism, which it could receive if the operation were not performed, then the evil would be greater than the good consequences of the operation. In this case the operation could not lawfully be performed. Whenever it is possible to baptize an embryonic child before it expires, Christian charity requires that it be done, either before or after delivery; and it may be done by any one, even though he be not a Christian.

Hope it helps!


There are conditions related to the pregnancy itself that cannot be resolved in any way other than delivering the baby. Medication and other measures will not work or work adequately to prevent the likelihood of maternal and fetal death both if the condition progresses far enough even with medical treatment. Eclampsia is one such will give some insight based on policies and procedures in Victoria, Australia

#14 can give some info

"Figure 1 shows the proportional survival of singleton European infants known to be alive at the onset of labour. The Hosmer and Lemeshow goodness of fit statistic9 for this model was 2=7.06, df=8, P=0.53. At 22 weeks’ gestation predicted survival of European infants was 2%-3% irrespective of their size. Significant variations in gestation specific survival by birth weight emerged from 24 weeks’ gestation: predicted survival ranged from 9% (7% to 13%) for birth weights of 250-499 g to 21% (16% to 28%) for those of 1000-1249 g. At 28 weeks’ gestation predicted survival was 63% (56% to 70%) for birth weights of 500-749 g (below the 10th centile) and 90% (87% to 92%) for those of 1250-1499 g. At 32 weeks’ gestation predicted survival was 80% (70% to 88%) for birth weights of 750-999 g and 98% (97% to 99%) for those of 1500-2499 g. A reduced predicted survival at gestations of 27 weeks was seen in infants large for dates, although this finding was not significant. "

Preterm is considered before the 37th week of gestation.


Ethical and Religious Directives for Catholic Health Care Services from the USCCB says:

  1. Abortion (that is, the directly intended termination of pregnancy before viability or the directly intended destruction of a viable fetus) is never permitted. Every procedure whose sole immediate effect is the termination of pregnancy before viability is an abortion, which, in its moral context, includes the interval between conception and implantation of the embryo. Catholic health care institutions are not to provide abortion services, even based upon the principle of material cooperation. In this context, Catholic health care institutions need to be concerned about the danger of scandal in any association with abortion providers.

… ]

  1. Operations, treatments, and medications that have as their direct purpose the cure of a proportionately serious pathological condition of a pregnant woman are permitted when they cannot be safely postponed until the unborn child is viable, even if they will result in the death of the unborn child.
  1. In case of extrauterine pregnancy, no intervention is morally licit which constitutes a direct abortion.31
  1. For a proportionate reason, labor may be induced after the fetus is viable.


47 and 48 would seem to contradict themselves in the case of an ectopic pregnancy. In that case the pregnancy itself is the “seriously pathological condition.”


No, hemmorhaging , infection or other damage to the tube would be the seriously pathological condition.


Take a look at the following thread. Many of these questions dealt with in depth there:


They aren’t contradictory.

Direct abortion is never allowed.

In some cases, however, the moral principle of double effect allows that an action be taken (for a proportionate reason) that will result in the unintended secondary effect of the death of the unborn child.

It is not moral for the death of the child to be either an end or a means.

There is a difference between intending something and merely foreseeing it.

closed #20

DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed in these forums do not necessarily reflect those of Catholic Answers. For official apologetics resources please visit