Is abortion ever medically necessary to save the life of the mother?


I hesitate to say that it is unnecessary in all cases because I don’t want to misquote him, but his point indicated that if it was necessary it would be exceptionally rare. So essentially, yes to your question, but with an asterisk.


This why people need to be informed about this


I don’t know. Perhaps research it? Please do tell if you find an answer :slightly_smiling_face:


I agree, abortion is one of the worst forms of violence in society in my opinion for so many reasons. Essentially, it is state sponsored violence against the most helpless individuals primarily for reasons of convenience.


It is licit to remove the tube with the embryo inside. Not to directly kill the embryo.


From what I understand, watching the HGC levels in mom’s bloodstream the physicians can determine if the embryo is alive or dead. If the embryo has died, then, using a method other than tube removal is permitted (as you are not directly causing the death of the embryo).


So an immoral case would be one where they might catch the ectopic pregnancy before it becomes a problem and abort the living fetus in order to save the tube?

I didn’t realize it was possible to catch it soon enough to prevent tube removal.


The living fetus will not survive. There’s no way to save it. An ectopic pregnancy will never end in a live baby. And they don’t necessarily abort the baby or kill the baby, they simple remove it with the tube and the child that was going to die anyway, dies as a result. The primary purpose of the removal is not the killing of the baby.


The only case I know of is an ectopic pregnancy. This is where the fertilized egg implants in the fallopian tube. The baby can’t develop enough to survive outside the womb, and attempts to let it grow here well certainly kill the mother when the tube ruptures. It’s currently impossible to save the poor child, but the mother can be. This can be done by removing the section of the fallopian tube that the baby has implanted into. It’s a devastating situation, but it is always lethal for the baby, and the mother if the tube ruptures.


Catholic bioethics center on Ectopic pregnancy:

Relevant quote:

Question 4. What does the Magisterium say about the moral liceity of these three procedures?

Reply: The Magisterium is silent on these three specific procedures. There appears to be universal acceptance of salpingectomy among ethicists. Removal of the tube indirectly causes the death of the embryo. There is less agreement on the use of methotrexate, and there are strong concerns about the moral liceity of salpingostomy, which appears to be a direct attack on the embryo. Nonetheless, in the absence of magisterial direction, the use of any of these procedures becomes a matter of conscience. In the face of the certain death of the embryo regardless of the procedure used (or not used), one may weigh what is proportionately bene cial to preserve a woman’s fertility.


It’s controversial and the case of a baby being aborted at 11 weeks, when the mother would have died otherwise, at a Catholic Hospital in Arizona was a hot topic.

The Bishop said the mother, doctors, nurse and the nun who approved it, excommunicated themselves.

The doctors responded by stating, there is no way we were going to sit and watch the woman die, over a doctrine which was out of touch with this case.

Anyway, the Church said they could’ve induced labor and not directly abort the child. The doctors maintain that was not possible.



I believe the Church teaches that there is no moral culpability for an abortion in two instances. One a spontaneous natural abortion (stillbirth or miscarriage) and two, an abortion that occurs as an unintended by product of a medical procedure necessary to save the life of the mother. That is the indirect loss of a developing child is not sinful if it not intended in the first place.
When is that the case …… up to the physicians and the patient in each individual case.
Example: a woman at four months is found to have cancer. It can be successfully treated with radiation and chemotherapy treatment but the developing fetus would not survive. It is allowable in the eyes of the church, though every effort should be made to preserve the life of the fetus.


Inducing labor at 11 weeks?!


You may have a problem with terminology.
In the Catholic Church “abortion” (which by itself means direct abortion) is by the very definition always and everywhere immoral. No exceptions. Strictly speaking this answers your posted question.

However I think what you are really asking is whether there are some medical cases where surgical interventions foreseeing the death of the child are the only way to save the mother.
The answer to that is yes, there are.

The point we are making is that when we make these medical decisions, in order to save the mother, they are morally good. Ectopic pregnancy procedures are accepted as moral by the Church

Therefore those decisions cannot be called “abortion” so far as the Church is concerned.

Some medical staff may well call these procedures abortion from a strictly medical procedure point of view (a foetus is being removed afterall).

So medical abortion and abortion as a ethical category are two different things.


I know that. I am asking if there are any medical cases where abortion (the deliberate killing of the child) was necessary.

I do know that too (but thanks for reiterating) Ectopic pregnancies are one of these.

Yes that is true

I know that. I am asking about the deliberate killing of the child. Has there been a case when that was necessary? I have yet to find a yes.

Ok yes but when we Catholics speak about abortion we are referring to the deliberate termination of a human pregnancy (which you know :slight_smile: )


Your question suggests you still don’t quite see the difference between direct and indirect abortion nor between medical abortion and Catholic meaning of abortion.

Nor is “deliberate” the same as “direct” in moral theology (which acknowledges many levels and degrees of “choice” in human decisions)

Ethics is not just about an external objective action

For Catholics ethics is about a human act - this is primarily an internal intent as revealed by external actions (others cannot see internal acts).

You seem to be trying to wholly determine the nature of an internal act based on a medical procedure/action.
That is not the best way to determine what is ethical and what is not.

Is removal of an inflamed section of fallopian tube to save a woman immoral?
No it isn’t.

What if a foetus happens to be inside and we know that choice will kill the child?
The Church has ruled it can be acceptable to make this choice. Is that “deliberation”?

That means in those cases the Catholic mother can ethically choose the procedure without necessarily deliberately choosing to kill the child.

The surgeon on the otherhand may see himself as deliberately killing the child in order to save the mother (ethically abortion).

Its possible the same procedure could also be chosen by another mother and another surgeon with reversed intentions to the above.

All direct killing in the area of medical abortion is immoral.
But not all choices to knowingly kill are direct in moral theology.
A deliberate choice may not be a direct choice.
It depends what you mean by “deliberate”.

Personally I have always believed that all direct killing in any arena of human life is immoral.
But many Catholics hold that a sovereign (and his agents) may directly intend to kill ethically (Capital Punishment).

Pope Francis’s latest views suggest my personal views may be right :wink:


Sorry I meant direct abortion. Considering that the definition of abortion is the intentional killing of the child (which the Church condemns) I am still asking, has there been a case where the intentional (direct) killing of the child is medically necessary ever?

Also I understand that medical professionals may see abortion as both direct and indirect. I’m asking for the case where direct abortion was seen as necessary.

I know that.

I know that too

I know that Lillypilly, what is wrong with my question?

And I am asking about whether this deliberate killing was medically necessary ever.


It is very rare, most times there is a rupture and that is how the ectopic is discovered. :frowning: That is what happened to me.


I don’t think so.

It is really directly intending.
(I rewrote my post above to make this clearer)

I now see your issue is over the ambiguities of degrees of intent.
Deliberate and direct may not have the same meaning in Latin based moral theology.

And I am asking about whether this deliberate killing was medically necessary ever.

I don’t know what you are asking as your terminology may be mixing up ethical and medical categories.

If you are asking if the death of the foetus is inevitable in some medical procedures then clearly the answer is yes re ectopic pregnancies.

Does that mean choosing to undergo such surgery is “deliberately” choosing to kill the child.
Yes, in the English language that is clearly so in some sense…it is foreseen as inevitable part of the choice.

Does the Church teach that this must also be a “direct intention”?
Clearly not.

Yes, there are lots of shades of grey when it comes to human acts and intention.
Some decisions are merely mechanical and “executive” choices as they say.
This is not what moral theologians mean by a “moral choice” or full “human act”.

Now you know why priests train in moral theology for 5-7 years.


Actually, many women find out they have an ectopic when it ruptures. It is not always fatal because I lived through my rupture. It was the worst pain of my life!!!

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