Abortion – Selfdefense

www_nanaco1 asked this question

Father; In the case of a ectopic pregnacy; can the mother abort to save her own life. Wouldn't that be considered self defense? Please give me a complete answer on what should be done if the teaching is no abortion allowed in this event. Thank you very much




Thank you for your question. It reminds me of the case studies we used to analyze some 40 years ago taking our exams in moral theology: "Samuel married Samuela. She conceived and gave birth to Siamese twins. Is it allowed to kill one in order to save the other?" The answer was "no".

It seems that I am getting a test here too. Because the answer to your question is "no". But like my teachers you have prepared the question so I cannot answer with a simple "no".

Now it is impossible to give you a COMPLETE answer. It would require at least two sets of information:

First I would need a lot more information from the doctors because surely there has been a consultation. Ectopic pregnancy is not equal ectopic pregnancy. There are many variations. But you suppose that the life of the mother is in danger. In what degree? Severely, possibly, 40 percent?

I will never forget the woman whom I visited on my rounds in the hospital as a young priest. She was due to give birth to her child but she had a severe heart condition. The doctor advised abortion because giving birth she could die. He explained that he would have to crush the head of the baby. She decided to give birth at any cost. Well, mother and child are well. So I never influence the decision of anybody. Who am I to be an obstacle that someone has the mission to be a martyr? Ok, this is not the only alternative available to a Catholic. But regarding the other alternatives you need to have more information.

The second step would be to offer you a complete instruction concerning "causa directa" and "causa indirecta", i.e. that there may be consequences of a permitted procedure. How so?

I give you an example. Have you read about the Peruvian Siamese twins that have been treated in Italy? On deteriorating their condition, having consulted an ethics committee, the doctors decided to use surgery to save one. Together the twins had only one liver, and so on. The direct intention was to save one of the twins. The final outcome would be that the other twin could not live. I don’t know if you understand the difference. They did not want nor intend to kill the other twin. Both died, I am sorry.

To understand this reasoning I would have to expound the doctrine that my professor in illo tempore transmitted employing a whole week. Please if there is a Catholic library you can get a book by a Church approved author regarding moral theology. There you look up the teaching on intentions, finalities, causa directa etc. so that you might get an inkling regarding this intricate material.

Let me finish on a personal note. I am a pastoralist, i.e. trying to help concrete people in concrete situations. I do not like to give abstract receipts because every situation is different. So I suggest that - IF there is a concrete case - you get someone expert from nearby. I know instances where the bishop personally got involved. After obtaining all the necessary information, after knowing the persons involved I present all the possible alternatives, even the alternative to sacrifice the own life too. In final instance it is the decision of the mother. She has to hear what her husband says, but she has to decide. Then I call the convents of contemplative nuns a beg them to pray.

You could tell me that you would like to know the alternatives I would present. It would like telling you a snake bit me because I put my hand in its nest. Stupid, no? But I did not tell you the whole story how I got there in this situation because it was the only way to help someone to pass by without being bitten. When I know all the circumstances I put my hand inside the snake’s nest but not before, ok?




Father; I am a practicing Catholic who is 100% Pro- Life. When I talk to people about abortion, there are many who say they are against it; but most of these same people seam to have an exception or two in their thinking on abortion. I asked my sister if she knew of any circumstance when she thought it would be alright to have an abortion. She told me she believed it would be self-defence if a woman who was having an etopic pregnacy chose to end the prgnancy. I never knew there was such a thing as an eptopic pregnacy; so I was just asking you to give me some guidance how to answer her on this subject. I may need to answer somebody someday about this when I am defending the Church teaching that no unjust killing of innocent unborn children is ever permitted in the eyes of God. I wasn't trying to give you a trick question; I just needed a correct answer to the best of your knowledge.

If you would like to answer again from this point of view I would appreciate it or you can end this question.

May our Blessed Lord protect you and all of your loved ones.

Thank you Father



Thank you for the clarification.

The former answer contains what you need.

- It is not the case of self-defense. There is no attack.

- You are not allowed to provoke an abortion.

- The example of the Siamese twins explains the difference of direct effect and indirect effect. To give an other example: Let us say the mother has appendicitis and need urgent surgery to save her life. The surgery probably has as a side effect that the fetus will not survive. The direct intention and effect is saving the mothers life by removing the appendix. The not intended indirect effect is that the fetus may suffer harm. In this case it is allowed. But you can never directly provoke an abortion.


This a general answer.

As I said, there are variations of ectopic pregnancy. I have heard of very rare instances of four-month ectopic pregnancy. The child could almost have been saved.

So there is why there has to be a lot of specific information before to decide what to do in a specific case.