EWTN Catholic Q&A
Re: re: abortion
Question from wondering on 04-12-2013:

Hi Judie, Thanks for your response. I am still wondering. In the case of a tubal pregnancy the doctor must remove that section of the tube or the mother may die. The doctor does not intend to kill the embryo but rather save the mother's life, resulting in double effect. How does the removal of a cancerous uterus differ from the double effect resulting from the removal of a fallopian tube? Is there some assurance that cancer will not spread from the uterus and cause the death of the mother?

Below is a copy of my question and your answer:

Question from on 04-09-2013: Would a hysterectomy for a pregnant woman who has uterine cancer be double effect if the cancer has a chance to spread?

Answer by Judie Brown on 04-12-2013: Dear Wondering A hysterectomy during pregnancy is a direct act that removes the uterus and also kills the preborn child. As such it is a direct act of abortion and is not a question of the double effect principle.

Ethical physicians who are familiar with cancer of the female organs during pregnancy concur in the opinion that aborting the baby is not proper "treatment" for the cancer.

Judie Brown

Answer by Judie Brown on 04-15-2013:

Dear Wondering

I asked Anthony Dardano, MD, FACOG, to help straighten this out for you and for me. Here is his response which I hope clarifies the actual Catholic position:

Judie-it is taught that the removal of a cancerous uterus which is coincidentally pregnant is permissible under the principle of double effect. The direct intent is to treat the cancerous uterus. The loss of the pregnancy is not intended but unavoidable in treating the primary disease,

This is of course theoretical. In actuality, in many cases the treatment can be delayed until a reasonable gestational age can be reached to attain viability of the fetus and then a cesarean hysterectomy can be performed. I hope this helps.

Dr Dardano