When only one can live

I’m curious about the “Church” stance on an abortion in only the following case: when the life of the mother is put at risk by the pregnancy. If the pregnancy is so risky that either the pregnancy or birth will likely result in the mother’s death, is abortion justified in that case?

And birth control, for a woman known to be at risk? Is that allowed for her?

I’m sure you would get a much better and more detailed explanation of the Catholic Church’s stance on abortion by using the “Ask an Apologist” forum. Nevertheless, here is what I found using google:

[INDENT]"Never and in no case has the Church taught that the life of the child must be preferred to that of the mother. It is erroneous to put the question with this alternative: either the life of the child or that of the mother. No, neither the life of the mother nor that of the child can be subjected to an act of direct suppression. In the one case as in the other, there can be but one obligation: to make every effort to save the lives of both, of the mother and of the child.

It is one of the finest and most noble aspirations of the medical profession to search continually for new means of ensuring the life of both mother and child. But if, notwithstanding all the progress of science, there still remain, and will remain in the future, cases in which one must reckon with the death of the mother, when the mother wills to bring to birth the life that is within her and not destroy it in violation of the command of God - Thou shalt not kill - nothing else remains for the man, who will make every effort till the very last moment to help and save, but to bow respectfully before the laws of nature and the dispositions of divine Providence."*Pius XII, Allocution to Large Families, November 26, 1951. (15) *[/INDENT]

No, direct abortion is never justified. The medical professionals should do everything possible to save BOTH. There is virtually no cases where the mother’s life is at such risk that the pregnancy could not be continued until the child reaches the stage of viability.

And birth control, for a woman known to be at risk? Is that allowed for her?

Yes, that would be a serious reason to avoid pregnancy so *birth control *would be appropriate. Contraception, however, would not be permitted. It never is.

Can you inform me as to the difference?

A fellow Texan, hello! Thanks for checking for me–this is really the only part of the forum I check regularly, which is why I posted my query here, so thank you.

I’m afraid the response, however, seems to dodge the question. It seems to suggest rather, that in the case that a woman cannot survive birth, she is supposed to relinquish her own life in order to not “kill” the baby. If she chooses to live–to take care of children she already has, perhaps–then is she a killer? The Church would have her be dead, or a murderer?

The difference between birth control and contraception? Sure.

Any thing a couple does to space of delay the birth of a child is birth control. This can be as drastic as moving into separate bedrooms or as simple as monitoring the woman’s cycle to avoid having relations when she is fertile.

Contraception includes anything added to the marital act that gets in the way of conception** for that act**. This would include such things as condoms, contraceptive pills, etc. It is also usually used to include things that do not prevent conception but prevent implantation and the continuing of a new life such as IUDs, Plan B pills, etc.

No, abortion (directly acting on the embryo or fetus itself) is forbidden by the Catholic Church for any reason at all, including when the life of the woman is at risk by the pregnancy. The Church expects the doctors to treat both the woman and her unborn, and forbids sacrificing the fetus for the life of the woman.

However, some people get confused about Church-allowed procedures for certain medical conditions. For example, in the case that a tubal pregnancy has been diagnosed, the treatment (which is allowed by the Church) is to remove the tube. In this case, the primary intervention is removing the damaged tube. The fact that there is an embryo in the tube is secondary, and no action is being directly carried out on the embryo itself. However, the Church forbids the use of Methotrexate in the case of tubal pregnancy because it’s intent is to flush the embryo out of the tube. Therefore, the use of methotrexate in this example is forbidden because it is a direct action against the embryo. It’s primary intention is to remove the embryo.

Another example is when a woman has uterine cancer. The Church allows for a hysterectomy…the primary intervention is to remove the diseased organ. The fact that there may be a fetus in the uterus is secondary. The primary intention is not to remove a fetus (the fetus isn’t acted on), but to remove the diseased organ. The woman can also have treatments to treat the cancer (chemo or radiation, or whatever her doctor prescribes) even when pregnant because the interventions’ primary intent is to treat the cancer.

If a woman is unable to carry her pregnancy to term, the Church allows for early caesarean. The age of viability for a fetus is 20 weeks, according to all of my textbooks. What is expected from the Church is a valiant effort to save the baby after it is delivered. So in the case that a woman’s life is in danger, the Church allows for early caesarean with the intention of saving the baby after it is born. This isn’t the same as an abortion.
Whatever is done to save the life of the mother, the Church forbids any direct action on the unborn itself.

No, birth control or sterilization is not allowed by the Church, even for a woman known to be at risk. What is allowed is natural family planning or fertility awareness. That’s when you know and understand and keep track of your fertility signs and abstain during times that you are fertile, and only participate in the marital embrace when not fertile. The signs of fertility are cervical fluid, cervical position, and temperature. Women use one or a combination of these signs to determine their ferility. You can also use ovulation monitors, which work like pregnancy tests.

The reason why the Church allows this is because it doesn’t sterilize the marital embrace, and doesn’t eliminate the procreative or unitive properties that the Church requires. Even though a woman is at risk, if she chooses to participate in the marital embrace knowing she is at risk, the Church doesn’t exempt her from being open to life. The Church demands that if she’s that at risk, she will abstain during her fertile times, or deal with the consequences faithfully to the Church.

No. Abortion is intrinsically evil. It is always wrong.

Both the child and the mother are patients of the doctor and he is morally obligated to do all he can to save both patients. If the mother is treated for a medical condition and the baby dies as an unintended consequence, this is not an abortion.

No. Contraception is intrinsically evil. It is always wrong.

A couple can avoid pregnancy through abstaining, either completely or periodically through observation of the wife’s cycle (NFP).

Define “cannot survive birth.”

Killing the baby is **always **wrong. That in no way implies that the mother cannot be treated for her condition.

If she kills her baby, or has a doctor kill her baby, then yes she is a killer.

She can be treated for a medical condition. The doctor’s obligation is to try to save both.

The Church would have them both live.

Lets flip your scenario around. Would we ever consider putting a gun to the mother’s head, against her will, and blowing her brains out in order to save the baby? :shrug:

(sorry for being so graphic)

In Christ

Okay, so basically the woman isn’t allowed to have sex, then?

So is a woman allowed or not allowed to get a hysterectomy?

But if the mother dies, the Church thinks that’s better than sacrificing the life of the baby?

I don’t know. Would you?

The church does not accept abortion in any instance apart from the accident of double effect, (probably explained elsewhere in this thread).

Pro-abortionists bring up the “save the life of the mother” “rape” “incest” etc. argument all the time.

From a secular/political perspective ONLY, if the U.S. only allowed abortions under these scenarios, even though it’s still not right, we’d only be doing 1.9% of the abortions we do now, providing that the law was adhered to. That would be a more than 98% drop, and would obliterate the need for all abortion mills, Planned Parenthood, etc. Obstetricians and other doctors who may encounter one of these odd rarities will still have training for it in med school, etc., but there would be no abortion “industry”, and the Church would have a much smaller battle to fight.

If a sincere legislative body, who would create a real law to comply with this scenario as a solution to the arguments would do this, the Church would still be active in ending that 1.9 percent, but the country would be a LOT safer, and more reasonable.

The problem is, that’s NOT what pro-abortionists are after. That’s just supposed to be a gripping emotional argument intended to make pro lifers feel guilty for their 100 percent stance on the issue. It’s not a sincere argument or our pro-abortion government would put their money where their mouth is, and start enacting laws along these lines in an effort to be a more reasonable and caring society, and to offer some relief in the law for both pro-lifers and pro-abortionists.

“What if…” scenarios are just logic traps, and smokescreens, and have no actual significant bearing on the abortion debate.

Until we live in a world that’s willing to go at LEAST that far, then the Church will still be picketing and praying in front of the abortion mills rather than speaking out on the rare individual cases which would be left.

Just for clarity…Once again…this is an answer from a secular stance.

Our Church doesn’t allow procured abortion in any case. Nor does it allow or approve of artificial birth control, or contraception. These are all intrinsically evil.

The marital embrace is reserved by God and nature to married male and female persons. All others are called to chastity.



I’m hardly a pro-abortionist. But I don’t really consider the case I described to really be abortion, either.

I only brought it up because frankly I’ve heard some pretty negative things about the “Church” on this issue and would like to have it explained properly.

Dismissing my question as a “logic trap” framed amid political posturing is hardly fair.

You’re right. It’s a bit harsh. I apologize. I was speaking in a general sense. Not to you directly. There is a very disingenuous faction of persons out and about on the internet, in media, etc., and these scenarios are constantly brought up, and displayed as if they’re reasons to keep up the abortion industry as it now stands. I was trying to point out, (to you and anyone else), that the arguments are not sincere. That’s rarely what the person proposing or asking it means or wants. They mean and want that we must keep abortion readily available to anyone who wants it, just IN CASE on of these things comes up, and I was pointing out how rarely this actually comes up.

Anyway…not intended personally, and lacking in charity. You are correct, and I am sorry. I gave into emotion.



There’s a lot of dancing around and playing with symantics on this, but the bottom line is yes, the catholic church, and possibly others too, would, when stuck between a rock and a hard place, prefer the mother die in order to save the baby and believe that this is the right and proper thing to do.
This would then leave the surviving children without a mother, and a husband without a wife, having to explain to the children why.
It’s appalling, and one of the hundreds of reasons why I object to any faith having a say in how people live their lives.
It may in deed be very rare that going full term or to the point where the fetus is viable would result in the mothers death due to medical complications, or the act of not removing the fetus threatens the life of the mother, but, in the words of the pope quoted in this thread, if it does happen - then tough. The family and husband are supposed to somehow draw comfort for the fact they did not transgress natures or gods laws!!!
This Im afraid is what happens when normal rational people allow the superstitions of faith and those peddling such superstitions to have control over their lives.
And not just the catholic faith, but any faith.

So I’ll ask you the same question I asked earlier. Would you ever consider putting a gun to the mother’s head, against her will, and blowing her brains out in order to save the baby?

I think what you may not be able to grasp is this. In this exceedingly rare occasion its not choosing the life of something growing in the mother over the mother. Its choosing the life of the child of that mother.

I am a man but I know with certainty that my wife would agree (as would virtually everyone else in the world, pro-life or otherwise). If any of my children were in a life threatening situation where I had the ability to save their lives, even if I knew with certainty that it would cost me my life, I would do it with out hesitation. I’d bet most every parent would.

If I had to run into a burning building to save my child and died it would be awful for my wife to explain what happened to my kids and equally awful for her to live with out me, but nobody would question the fact that I did the right thing!

The only difference here is that when you choose the killing of your child over the mother’s life you can just throw your dead child away and not have to think about it.

That’s me not dancing around the issue at all and standing proud of my stance on abortion!

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