Have you ever been in a conversation with someone who accuses the Church of sentencing pregnant women to death because it doesn’t allow abortion? Or someone who is against abortion “except in the case of the mother’s health”?
There is a lot of misunderstanding and misinformation about the teaching, especially for those of us who aren’t medical doctors.
“Abortion is never permitted…Operations, treatments, and medications that have as their direct purpose the cure of a proportionately serious pathological condition of a pregnant woman are permitted when they cannot be safely postponed until the unborn child is viable, even if they will result in the death of the unborn child.”
This one-page article from Zenit clarifies the teaching and offers concrete examples, and I highly recommend reading it.
Even Catholics who have heard bits and pieces of the story of St. Gianna Beretta Molla might not understand why she is a saint.
At two months pregnant, she found out that she had a uterine fibroma. The doctors gave her three choices:
– have an abortion to end the pregnancy which was increasing the pain of the fibroma and later have it removed; have a hysterectomy to remove the entire uterus, including the fibroma and her unborn child; or have a myomectomy to remove just the fibroma.
Abortion is never permitted. A hysterectomy would have been permissible if it could not have been safely postponed until the unborn child was viable. Being a doctor herself, she knew that it was possible to carry the child to viability, so she chose a myomectomy to preserve the life of her child.
When it came time to deliver her child by C-section, she knew there would be complications. She was very clear that she wanted her child’s life preserved over her own, if the choice needed to be made. Though she made it through the pregnancy, she died a week later.
Gianna’s sainthood stems from her acceptance of suffering for the sake of her baby’s chance at life. Sadly, in 1973, the U.S. court said of abortion, “Medical judgment may be exercised in light of all factors–physical, emotional, psychological, familial and the woman’s age–relevant to the wellbeing of the patient…All these factors may relate to health.” This practically means that if the mother is suffering in any way, a doctor can decide whether it would be “healthier” for her to kill her child.
We must continue to pray that we ourselves accept the suffering in each day (as Christ suffered for us) and that, like Gianna, pregnant mothers and medical doctors value human life over comfort.