In an interview with CNA, three Catholic doctors said abortion is “never medically necessary” to “save the life of the mother” in cases of ectopic pregnancies, miscarriages, and other life-threatening situations.

That’s because abortion “colloquially means the purposeful ending of a human life,” and “in certain circumstances, lifesaving treatment that involves the early interruption of a pregnancy may be indicated.”

“In this case, the intent is not to end the life of the baby but to save the mother, and this intent is manifest in the fact that a physician would make every effort to preserve the life of a preterm baby where possible.”

They said a large majority of abortions are “for convenience” rather than life-threatening situations.

“It’s not semantics. It’s human rights. It’s the difference between doctors making difficult decisions to save both patients if possible or at least to save one as compared to abortion providers taking it upon themselves to end the life of their most vulnerable patient for no medical reason.”

In the case of ectopic pregnancies, which make up about 2% of all pregnancies in the US, one option is removing the fallopian tube housing the embryo, a procedure known as a salpingectomy.

“If the criteria are present that would indicate a live embryo is present, then removal of the tube with the embryo present in it is moral by the Principle of Double Effect. Your intention is to remove the damaged tube, not to kill the baby.”

They said a salpingectomy is a “completely different procedure” to abortion.

“While abortion aims to end the life of the fetus or embryo, treating an ectopic pregnancy requires removing the embryo through surgery or medication to save the mother’s life, with the death of the preborn child being a tragic but inevitable side effect.”

Treatments for miscarriage are different from abortion too where “the baby is alive, and the goal of the procedure is to end its life.”

“In a miscarriage, the baby has already died of natural causes, and the aim of any procedure to treat the miscarriage is to help the woman’s body pass the baby and any other pregnancy tissue.”

In general, in any life-threatening pregnancy complication situation “you never have to kill the baby to save the mother, we try to save both.”

“Sometimes, women face life-threatening complications in which the only way to save their lives is to separate them from their preborn children. If the woman has a serious complication of pregnancy and has to be delivered, you would either induce labor (pre-eclampsia or a cardiac condition) or you would do an emergency cesarean section to save both the mother and the baby. In the case of an ectopic pregnancy, this involves removing the embryo from the woman’s fallopian tube.”

In these cases, “lifesaving procedures” are not abortions because “they do not have as their primary purpose to kill the preborn child in the process.”

“In fact, in many cases, the added goal of killing the child would prove counterproductive if the woman is facing a health emergency, as it takes up to several days to prep the mother’s cervix for a late-term abortion, whereas a C-section can be completed in less than 30 minutes.” 

The Church teaches directly intended abortion is a grave sin and contrary to moral law.

“Since the first century the Church has affirmed the moral evil of every procured abortion. This teaching has not changed and remains unchangeable. Direct abortion, that is to say, abortion willed either as an end or a means, is gravely contrary to the moral law.” – Catechism of the Catholic Church 2271

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