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Medical Justification for abortion
Question from Nancy on 10/18/2012:

30 years ago I was taught that if a woman had a life threatening condition(perhaps a tubal pregnancy) that this was the only exemption that a faithful Catholic woman could procure an abortion for. It is rare and the reason for the abortion was not the original intention of the pregnancy. In fact, the woman did not desire the abortion but rather desired the baby to be born. Problem: I can't find the explanation for this in the Catholic Cathechism or any other Catholic resource books I own. The women in my prayer group tell me I am mistaken but I know I have heard and read about this exception in the past. My husband calls this the Hobson question. God does not deem the mother's life less valuable than thechild's and vice-versa. Therefore, it is not a mortal sin to save the life of the mother (who may have other children to care for at home) in this extreme circumstance. I need a serious answer to take back to my class. Please help me andtell me which resource I can find this information in. Thank you.

Answer by Judie Brown on 10/18/2012:

Dear Nancy,

Please see the following, which is taken from our American Life League website . . . www.all.org . . . under the "Education/Abprtion" section. I hope it is helpful to you.

Judie Brown

The mother’s life This excuse for allowing abortion sounds reasonable. If the pregnancy is threatening the mother’s life, it would seem that lethal force — an abortion — would be a permissible form of self-defense. The child is not really "attacking" the other, but his presence puts her at risk. It sounds like a good argument, but it simply isn’t true. Hundreds of doctors have a signed a statement that puts the situation in perspective. The statement reads, "There is never a situation in the law or in the ethical practice of medicine where a preborn child’s life need be intentionally destroyed by procured abortion for the purpose of saving the life of the mother. A physician must do everything possible to save the lives of both of his patients, mother and child. He must never intend the death of either." A tubal (or ectopic) pregnancy, for instance, can indeed be life-threatening. But the treatment, even if it is fatal to the child, is not a "procured abortion." The doctor wants to save the baby, but knows that is unlikely. The baby’s death is an unintended consequence of the physician’s effort to save the mother. There are similar cases involving the treatment of cancer in which the baby’s death can be an unintended consequence. But again, these are medical treatments, not abortion. It is important to distinguish between direct abortion, which is the intentional and willed destruction of a preborn child, and a legitimate treatment a pregnant mother may choose to save her life. Operations that are performed to save the life of the mother-such as the removal of a cancerous uterus or an ectopic pregnancy that poses the threat of imminent death-are considered indirect abortions. They are justified under a concept called the "principle of double effect." Under this principle, the death of the child is an unintended effect of an operation independently justified by the necessity of saving the mother’s life. Essentially, both mother and child should be treated as patients. A doctor should try to protect both. However, in the course of treating a woman, if her child dies, that is not considered abortion. "Today it is possible for almost any patient to be brought through pregnancy alive, unless she suffers from a fatal disease such as cancer or leukemia, and if so, abortion would be unlikely to prolong, much less save the life of the mother." -Alan Guttmacher, former Planned Parenthood president "There are no conceivable clinical situations today where abortion is necessary to save the life of the mother. In fact, if her health is threatened and an abortion is performed, the abortion increases risks the mother will incur regarding her health." -Dr. Bernard Nathanson, American Bioethics Advisory Commission There is only one purpose for abortion — ending the life of the child. The "life of the mother" situation for abortion is simply bogus. See also "Abortion — NOT Even When the Pregnancy Threatens the Life of the Mother?" at http://www.all.org/upload/2010/02/23/1013.pdf

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