“What a young woman needs in such a situation is the support of family and friends, along with the reassurance that ‘we can get through this together,’” he said. “What she really needs is the love, hope and compassion that buoys up anyone facing uncertainty about her own future.”
Support, he said, can make all the difference.
“Young women who have had to walk this hard road, when supported generously by their families and friends, will often look back on what happened and express their relief that they were not offered the chance to destroy their own child following a sexual assault,” he said.
He referenced the recent story of Kathy Barnette, who unsuccessfully ran as a Republican Senate candidate in Pennsylvania in 2022. Barnette was conceived in rape when her mother, Mamie Jo, was just 11 years old. Mamie Jo chose life.
Pacholczyk emphasized that the child in the womb is innocent.
“By promoting abortion following a rape, we also take aim at the wrong target,” he said. “The child in the womb did not perpetrate the sexual assault, and should not be treated as if he or she did so.”
“Rather than targeting an innocent bystander, we should target the man who carried out the assault,” he concluded. “If efforts are not made to identify and apprehend the offender, who sometimes may be a family member or relative, an abortion may end up paving the way for the perpetrator to ‘cover his tracks’ and continue abusing a minor who should instead be provided with safety and protection from further abuse.”
What about ectopic pregnancies and cases where a woman’s life is at risk?
A Catholic woman is allowed to undergo life-saving treatment — even if it means that her unborn baby will die indirectly as a result of that treatment, according to the U.S. bishops’ directives. The intention and action, here, is to save the mother’s life. It is not to end her baby’s life through abortion, or “the directly intended termination of pregnancy.”
“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,” the directives read.
The bishops also address ectopic, or extrauterine, pregnancies that are life-threatening for the mother.
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“In case of extrauterine pregnancy, no intervention is morally licit which constitutes a direct abortion,” the directives say.
Instead, for ectopic pregnancies, Catholic medical experts agree that women can undergo a partial salpingectomy, which is the removal of a portion of the Fallopian tube where the unborn baby is located, the National Catholic Register reports. The intent and the direct action is to remove damaged tissue, not to end an unborn baby’s life.
According to the American Association of Pro-Life Obstetricians and Gynecologists, “Continuation of such a pregnancy cannot result in the survival of a baby.”
In other situations, the directives state that labor may be induced for a “proportionate reason” after the unborn baby is viable.
Can Catholic hospitals provide abortion?
The bishops’ directives stress that Catholic health care institutions are not to provide, or in any way help provide, abortion procedures. However, the bishops add, Catholic health care workers should provide help and comfort to women suffering after abortion.