Is Sterlization ok if medically required?


#1

My wife and I are in a very tough spot. We have three children and are expecting number four. Her due date is May 14, but our little daughter is not going to make it that long. All three of my wife’s previous pregnancies had serious complications and we knew that there were risks in getting pregnant again. After consultation with our priest and our doctor, we reluctantly started using the strictest method of sympto-thermal NFP.

We wanted and still want a large family. We were happy yet scared when my wife came up pregnant last year. We have reviewed our chart with a Couple to Couple League teaching couple and they agree that this is one of those freak method failures. My wife has a very short luteal phase and the chart says that she was infertile by 2 days when she got pregnant.

Please understand that we are thrilled and love this baby. We call her “God’s baby” because it truly seems to be the will of God that she was conceived. How can we interfere with that? We have happily celebrated her and looked forward to her arrival.

My wife is now 28 weeks pregnant as is having more complications than ever before. There is still a chance that she and the baby will not make it, but having crossed that 28 week threshold jumped up the odds of a successful outcome. We patiently and obidiently await whatever lies ahead of us and hope for the safe arrival of, aptly named, little Gianna.

The doctor has made it clear to us that if my wife were to get pregnant again after this, she would almost certainly lose the baby early and would have a serious risk of long-lasting health issue or even death should she make it past 20-some weeks. He is a Christian who knows are respects our Catholic beliefs. He would never suggest we get a tubal, but he also made it clear that we will need to decide how to handle this after the baby is born.

Now that you have the background, I can get to my question. My wife is reading Life Giving Love by Kimberly Hahn while she is on strict bedrest. On Page 194 of the paperback version, she states, “We cannot discount the doctor’s opinion that another pregnancy could cause serious harm or even death, just because we want more children. If the Pill or a hysterectomy is required medically, and it is not being chosen for contraceptive effect, there is no sin.”

My wife is literally in tears over this. She wants more children but also realizes that she has an obligation to me and our four children. She has literally said, “If it is between me and the baby, choose the baby. God wanted her born, so it is in His hands.” She would gladly get pregnant again if she thought she and the baby could survive it, but she now agrees that the odds are too risky.

From what I understand, if she gets a c-section (very good possiblity), they could do a tubal. I would never trust the Pill for our birth control since it is really not better than the method of NFP we used. Women do get pregnant on the Pill. Even a tubal is not 100%, but as close as you are going to get short of a hysterectomy. If we have to take a “medically required action”, that would be the leading candidate.

Is Kimberly Hahns statement true? How should we approach and way the moral sides of this issue? Where is my wife selfishly persuing her own desire for more children and rejecting her responsibilities as wife and mother to existing children? Is it enough to talk to a single priest about this or should we do something more “official” before we make a permanent decision that I have always thought was against Church teaching? Is celebate love really our only remaining option?


#2

Please talk to your priest. I believe Kimberly Hahn is wrong but you need an expert opinion. As I understand the “medical necessity” exception, it doesn’t mean you can contracept due to medical necessity. Rather, if you are perscribed the Pill for other reasons (uncontrollable bleeding, for instance) you can morrally take it even if the effect if contraceptive. Likewise, if you have a disease of the uterus, you can have a hysterectomy, even though it renders you sterile. I can’t think of anyway that a tubal fits into this theory.

But please, don’t take my word for it (or anyone else online). Please speak to a good faithful priest. You can call Father Serpa at Catholic Answers too.


#3

I suspect you are misunderstanding Ms. Hahn. Do talk to a reliable priest about it, to whom you can relate the precise medical conditions.

But, in general, I don’t know of a medical reason to have your tubes tied except to contracept. A person could have cancer in the uterus or something, and then it could be medically necessary to remove it. It sounds like the medical reason given for the tying of the tubes is solely to prevent pregnancy in your example, however, which I understand to be wrong.

Go over the details with a priest.


#4

So you are saying that there is never, ever, ever a reason to contracept. Period. Even unto death.

My wife may not survive this pregnancy. NFP failed. Celebacy or the very serious risk of death are our only options.

Am I understanding you correctly?


#5

Yes.


#6

[quote=hfwarner3]So you are saying that there is never, ever, ever a reason to contracept. Period. Even unto death.

My wife may not survive this pregnancy. NFP failed. Celebacy or the very serious risk of death are our only options.

Am I understanding you correctly?
[/quote]

I am saying, that based on all I know, there is no morally valid reason to contracept. I am not a priest, a deacon or even a moral theologian.

If you are asking if Kimberly Hahn’s passage as you quoted it, is consistent with other teachings, then we can answer you. You cannot get reliable advice on a life-or-death issue from an internet forum.

Go talk to a priest or call Catholic Answers. You need the real truth, with back up evidence.


#7

:blessyou:

Kristine :angel1:


#8

[quote=kmktexas]You cannot get reliable advice on a life-or-death issue from an internet forum.
[/quote]

Amen!


#9

[quote=kmktexas]If you are asking if Kimberly Hahn’s passage as you quoted it, is consistent with other teachings, then we can answer you. You cannot get reliable advice on a life-or-death issue from an internet forum.
[/quote]

:slight_smile: No, you can’t. I just have to admit that I was shocked to read it because it contradicted everything I had ever been taught.

We are meeting with a priest and I probably will call Catholic Answers for a “second opinion” regardless of the answer from the priest.


#10

[quote=hfwarner3]We are meeting with a priest and I probably will call Catholic Answers for a “second opinion” regardless of the answer from the priest.
[/quote]

I’ll pray for your wife tonight. I wish your family the best.


#11

I will keep your family in my prayers. I hope you get an answer soon!

GOD BLESS, KERRI


#12

“Medicine” is designed to fix things that are broken or functioning improperly.

Birth Control is one of the only medical practices that actually takes something that is working properly, and then causes it to misfunction.

You mentioned that your wife had a short luteal phase (which henders the survival of the fetus due to a decreased build up of vital hormones)

However, you didn’t mention what complications your wife was having with her pregnancy. (I assume it may be related to this in some way)

To my knowlege, many pregnacy related complications are treatable if something is “misfunctioning”.

I would get your Dr. to refer you and your wife to a fertility expert.

YES, it is certainly alright to correct or treat a misfunctioning, diseased, worn out body part.

The way I understood Kimberly Hahn’s statement is that: Let’s say that the mother had cancer of the uterus (diseased body part), she wanted to have more children, but it would mean possible miscarriage or spread of cancer, which could cause her death. It would not be a sin to “fix/remove” the diseased organ before any subsequent pregnancies.

As far as the PILL goes, I have heard priests say that the use of the pill is not a sin so as long as it is being used to treat another medical complication and not to contracept.

Remenber that there are many medicines than can cause sterility, not just the pill.

You and your family are in my prayers.


#13

[quote=Jennie]However, you didn’t mention what complications your wife was having with her pregnancy. (I assume it may be related to this in some way)

To my knowlege, many pregnacy related complications are treatable if something is “misfunctioning”.
[/quote]

My wife has severe pre-ecclampsia complicated by some other chronic health issues. She is 28 weeks pregnant and her blood pressure is currently averaging around 150s/90s. She has a constant migraine headache, she has visual problems from the BP, she is starting to show signs of swelling on the brain, and they are worried that her kidneys and/or liver are going to fail any day now. She has had a lesser form of this with each pregnancy. The doctor has made it clear that as she gets older, this is only going to get worse.

Can you imagine the horror of being in a situation where the “best” outcome for your wife’s health is for her to miscarry before 20 weeks? Can you imagine having 3 young children at home that don’t understand why their mother is in the hospital and can’t come home? Do you know what it is like to try to explain to your six year old daughter that yes, her mommy is very ill and could die?

We have had people tell us that we are “brain-washed Catholic idiots” for not aborting this child and letting it “get to this point.” That is a whole different horror to me that this has become our societal norm. God have mercy on us all.

I love God. I love my wife. I love my children. I don’t want my wife or my child to die. God willing, our odds are pretty good at this moment survivability-wise, but my wife and my child could survive this pregnancy with permenant life-altering health problems. You don’t want your baby born at 29 weeks. You don’t want your wife’s retina to detatch. You don’t want your wife to have brain swelling or edema that leads to bleeding.

I want to do the right thing. I firmly believe that the ends do not justify the means. There are vaccines that we will not allow our children to receive because it was harvested from the bodies of aborted children. We are pro-life and open to life. I would love to have 6, 8, or more children. But if my wife gets pregnant again, I may lose her and the baby she is carrying. Suddenly, I am a widower with young children.

If there are extremes where the death penalty is okay and there are extremes where war is justified, why are there not extremes where sterlization is okay?

I am not trying to be disobedient to Church Teachings. Quite the contrary. I never even considered this an option until my wife showed me this paragraph in the book. Now that the thoughts are there, I need to know the logical explanation of the actual teaching and why it is so. I looked in the Cathecism and this is one of those areas where it is hard (for me anyway) to take the Dogma and Theology and apply it to a real-world extreme situation.

If I was saying that I am sick of kids and want my wife to take the Pill or get “fixed” because I don’t want any more darn kids, well, that would be selfishly rejecting God’s blessings and His plan for us. That would be a rather large sin.

But I have to decide if my wife and I are now in a situation where we either: reject Church teaching and risk eternal damnation, remain celebate for the rest of our lives, or risk killing my wife should NFP fail again.

You spoke of things malfunctioning. Well, my wife’s reproductive system is malfunctioning rather severely. There is no cure. There is no fix. Once she is pregnant, the only “cure” is to get the baby out. If the baby is not “viable” at that time, you are talking about abortion. We tried to obey church teachings and use NFP in its most conservative form to prevent pregnancy given the severity of the situation. That failed.

The only question is how we, as Catholics, should respond from here. What I am hearing is that I can choose celebacy or continue the risk of killing my wife and/or a future child. I am having a hard time in seeing the blessing God is giving us in that.


#14

[quote=hfwarner3]So you are saying that there is never, ever, ever a reason to contracept. Period. Even unto death.

My wife may not survive this pregnancy. NFP failed. Celebacy or the very serious risk of death are our only options.

QUOTE]

You and your family are in my prayers. I find myself in a similar situation. My have borderline hear failure which will progress and eventually (probably within a few years) I will need a heart transplant. We have 1 daughter. We have been using NFP almost since she was born, she’s 9. If I were to become pregnant I most likely would not survive the pregnancy and the child probably wouldn’t either even if I could carry it to a viable age the handful of drugs I’m on would be very detrimental to the child’s developement.

Some crosses in life are difficult to accept, but I lay my life in God’s hands.
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#15

this moral issue was dealt with long before the pill came along (and before the tubal ligation became a medical possiblity). If the mother has a health problem that indicates a hysterectomy that is permitted to solve that health problem as long as avoiding pregnancy is not the reason for it, but an unintended side effect. Because a woman in this situation is often a high-risk pregnancy which will require surgical intervention at or after delivery, this is a good time medically to do the hysterectomy. The only type of surgery on the fallopian tubes that is permissible would be to remove and ectopic pregnancy, to clear a blockage, or to remove a tumor. A tubal with the sole or primary purpose of preventing pregnancy would not be permissible.

the moral dilemma of what a couple should do when another pregancy poses a real threat to the health of the mother has also been dealt with long ago. The option is abstinence and chastity as the highest expression of their love for each other. For instance, mothers who were polio victims in the epidemics that used to ravage this country and could not longer safely engage in the marriage act or carry a pregnancy have been heroically cherished and served by their husbands for years without sex. Or a man whose heart condition renders sexual excitement dangerous, or a man suffering effects of stroke, dutifully and lovingly cared for by the wife for years without the possibility of sexual affection.

the depth of the marital love possible in this situation is incalcuable and the blessings to the couple and family where this type of love is expressed are immense, beyond anything you can imagine. God blesses us always, through our burdens not in spite of them. You are being called to great holiness and great privilege through these trials. Mary and Joseph are your best example, guide and support in this.


#16

[quote=hfwarner3]My wife has severe pre-ecclampsia complicated by some other chronic health issues. She is 28 weeks pregnant and her blood pressure is currently averaging around 150s/90s. She has a constant migraine headache, she has visual problems from the BP, she is starting to show signs of swelling on the brain, and they are worried that her kidneys and/or liver are going to fail any day now. She has had a lesser form of this with each pregnancy. The doctor has made it clear that as she gets older, this is only going to get worse.
[/quote]

I can relate to your wife. I was pre-ecclamptic as well, during my pregnancy. It is definately not a fun experience. I will pray for your wife, and offer up my sufferings during fast tomorrow for some relief for her.

Can you imagine the horror of being in a situation where the “best” outcome for your wife’s health is for her to miscarry before 20 weeks? Can you imagine having 3 young children at home that don’t understand why their mother is in the hospital and can’t come home? Do you know what it is like to try to explain to your six year old daughter that yes, her mommy is very ill and could die?

I am so very sorry for your situation.

I don’t think anyone here is trying to minimize your problems by bringing the reality of Catholic teaching to the forefront. In fact there are MANY posters here who have severe hardships, who can relate to your questions of:

“Why did God set this situation up for me and my family”.

“We are Faithful children of God. Why does he allow this to happen to my family with no way out?”

“He couldn’t have meant for that commandment/rubric to apply to my situation like that…”

But what many people here will also tell you, is that somehow the weight becomes easier to bear when we do accept God’s Will for us and our lives.

We have had people tell us that we are “brain-washed Catholic idiots” for not aborting this child and letting it “get to this point.” That is a whole different horror to me that this has become our societal norm. God have mercy on us all.

God Bless you for continuing this pregnancy. And I agree, God have mercy on us all…

I love God. I love my wife. I love my children. I don’t want my wife or my child to die.

This is no solace I am sure, but God looks highly upon those who follow God’s commandments even though it causes them GREAT pain… (Abraham, Job etc.)

God willing, our odds are pretty good at this moment survivability-wise, but my wife and my child could survive this pregnancy with permenant life-altering health problems. You don’t want your baby born at 29 weeks. You don’t want your wife’s retina to detatch. You don’t want your wife to have brain swelling or edema that leads to bleeding.

Of course, no one wishes such things. :frowning: God protect her during this difficult time.

I want to do the right thing. I firmly believe that the ends do not justify the means. There are vaccines that we will not allow our children to receive because it was harvested from the bodies of aborted children. We are pro-life and open to life. I would love to have 6, 8, or more children. But if my wife gets pregnant again, I may lose her and the baby she is carrying. Suddenly, I am a widower with young children.

If there are extremes where the death penalty is okay and there are extremes where war is justified, why are there not extremes where sterlization is okay?

I suppose because in the situations you described, there are people involved who have set up the necessity for retaliation. Serial murderers, dictatorial/murdering rulers, etc. We have a righteous responsibility to take action against those people.

A conceived infant now or future, set up no such situation. They are completely innocent of their in-utero environment. We are not to take life just to make our lives easier. Sterilization is not self-defense.

This reality doesn’t lessen the heartache or the pain you are feeling. I pray that God will be with you and your wife through this.


#17

I am not trying to be disobedient to Church Teachings. Quite the contrary. I never even considered this an option until my wife showed me this paragraph in the book. Now that the thoughts are there, I need to know the logical explanation of the actual teaching and why it is so. I looked in the Cathecism and this is one of those areas where it is hard (for me anyway) to take the Dogma and Theology and apply it to a real-world extreme situation.

You certainly do have an extreme situation. But the miracle of the laws that God gave us, is that they often fit the extreme situations EXACTLY as they would the not-so-extreme. We are used to finding ‘holes’ and ‘edges’ to the laws man makes for himself- and they are easy to find.

The longer I live, the more I have come to realize, and find comfort in the fact that God’s laws have no decernable boundries. They not only move with the times, they adapt to technological and medical advances, with cultural and societal changes, and with our own demands for explaination and logic.

Your extreme situation was once commonplace.

If I was saying that I am sick of kids and want my wife to take the Pill or get “fixed” because I don’t want any more darn kids, well, that would be selfishly rejecting God’s blessings and His plan for us. That would be a rather large sin.

But I have to decide if my wife and I are now in a situation where we either: reject Church teaching and risk eternal damnation, remain celebate for the rest of our lives, or risk killing my wife should NFP fail again.

Someone above listed a number of ailments and medical diagnoses where sex or pregnancy may be life threatening. It can be done. One can survive, and have a loving and fulfilling marriage without sex. You are embracing the blessings God has given you- and you are living with your wife and children.

You spoke of things malfunctioning. Well, my wife’s reproductive system is malfunctioning rather severely. There is no cure. There is no fix. Once she is pregnant, the only “cure” is to get the baby out. If the baby is not “viable” at that time, you are talking about abortion. We tried to obey church teachings and use NFP in its most conservative form to prevent pregnancy given the severity of the situation. That failed.

I guess I look at the reproductive system as I look at my limbs. It is wonderfull to have them. One looks normal, and can lead normal and productive lives with them. But one does not NEED them to live, love, and do God’s will. A uterus is not a heart. Ovaries are not a brain. An orgasm is not breathing.

If given the choice between keeping the use of my limbs and loosing life or loosing my limbs and keeping my life- I choose my life. If given the choice between remaining sexually active and risking my life or celibacy and keeping my life, I choose life. I might add here, that once your wife completes menopause- you can completely resume any sexual activity! Celibacy need not be life long!

The only question is how we, as Catholics, should respond from here. What I am hearing is that I can choose celebacy or continue the risk of killing my wife and/or a future child. I am having a hard time in seeing the blessing God is giving us in that.

God’s plan for us is not always right there before us. We must OFTEN choose to be guided by him, even down what seem to be the darkest paths. From what I can see or understand, the rewards are immeasurable- that is your blessing from God.

May He Bless you.


#18

[quote=Shiann]If given the choice between keeping the use of my limbs and loosing life or loosing my limbs and keeping my life- I choose my life. If given the choice between remaining sexually active and risking my life or celibacy and keeping my life, I choose life. I might add here, that once your wife completes menopause- you can completely resume any sexual activity! Celibacy need not be life long!
[/quote]

“Do not deprieve each other except by mutual consent for a time, so that you may devote yourselves to prayer. Then come together again so that Satan will not tempt you because of your lack of self control.” 1 Cor. 7:5

As I said earlier, depending where you look and who you ask, you get different answers. I have been given this scripture verse as “proof” that God does not want married people to be celibate.

I will take the rest of this conversation and my questions to a priest.


#19

[quote=hfwarner3]"We cannot discount the doctor’s opinion that another pregnancy could cause serious harm or even death, just because we want more children. If the Pill or a hysterectomy is required medically, and it is not being chosen for contraceptive effect, there is no sin."
QUOTE]
She is wrong. She misinterprets this doctrine the same way many people do. When the Church teaches the pill is acceptable if medically neccessary, this means to treat some condition (such as endometriosis). In these cases, the pill is not used for a contraceptive, but as medicine for some illness, and would be effective whether the woman were having sex or not. Note the phrase
not being chosen for contraceptive effect . This is the principle of double effect. If the pill is not chosen for contraceptive effect, and pregancy resulted, it would not be considered a ‘failure’ of the pill because avoiding pregnancy wasn’t the goal, treating the illness was the goal. Your wife’s goal is to prevent pregnancy, since pregnancy is dangerous for her. The church teaches she must use morally acceptable means to that end, and the only acceptable means of preventing pregnancy are NFP and abstainence. If NFP is not safe for you, this leaves abstainence.
In our culture today we tend to think of sex as something people cannot resist or live without, and it’s true that it’s very difficult to do so (I have personal experience with this) especially when living together. However, it is possible with the grace of God, with prayer and the sacraments. God gives us all the grace we need to cope with our circumstances. Have faith that since He has allowed you and your wife to be in a situation where abstainence, or at least much less sex, is required of you, He will give you the grace you need. I will pray for you all.
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#20

[quote=hfwarner3]“Do not deprieve each other except by mutual consent for a time, so that you may devote yourselves to prayer. Then come together again so that Satan will not tempt you because of your lack of self control.” 1 Cor. 7:5

As I said earlier, depending where you look and who you ask, you get different answers. I have been given this scripture verse as “proof” that God does not want married people to be celibate.

I will take the rest of this conversation and my questions to a priest.
[/quote]

The Church always gives the same answer about this topic. Some within the Church give different answers and there are reasons for that, too.


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