What is the Church's teaching on ectopic pregnancy?

I posted the following message in the Moral Theology forum. It sparked a very interesting debate with over 200 responses, and the thread has not been closed. However, there was no answer on the official teaching of the Catholic Church. Can you help? Here is the original post.

When you have an ectopic pregnancy, I know they say that having surgery to save the mom’s life is fine, and the unfortunate fact that the baby can’t survive the surgery is not a sin. But now they can give you a shot of methotrexate which will end the pregnancy and save the mother from having surgery. The shot saves the mother from surgery and it saves the tubes from being cut, increasing the mother’s chances of having another healthy pregnancy and not limiting her fertility as the surgery can do. If you find out early enough that your pregancy is ectopic, you can get the shots, but if the baby is over 3mm (I believe), the shots don’t work and you have to have surgery.

If your pregancy is ectopic, meaning the baby is in the tubes, there is no way the baby will survive. There is not enough room in the tubes for the baby to grow. If the baby does grow, the tubes will rupture and emergency surgery is needed to save the mother’s life.

So, what does the church teach about this situation?

Dear Ruff,

If giving a shot of methotrexate directly kills the fetus, then it is not allowed. I noticed you used the term “end the pregnancy.” It’s the kind of terminology abortionists like to use. This is what the New Catholic Encyclopedia has to say:

“What is particularly noted in all cases of the discovery of a tubal pregnancy is that one is never permitted to remove or destroy the human fetus directly. The only legitimate surgical approach to any tubal pregnancy is based on the necessity of excising all or part of a seriously damaged fallopian tube in those circumstances in which the danger to the mother is already imminent and the chance for fetal survival is negligible.” (Vol. 5, pg. 88)

For more on this you can read the rest of the section I quoted. Also you can contact the National Catholic Bioethics Center: ncbcenter.org/home.html

Fr. Vincent Serpa, O.P.

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