The article adds that a “central requirement” of the principle is that the bad effect, or the baby’s death, cannot be how the good effect is achieved.
Harrison told CNA that the treatment for ectopic pregnancy has nothing to do with abortion, calling them “completely different procedures.”
“While abortion aims to end the life of the fetus or embryo, treating an ectopic pregnancy requires removing the embryo through surgery (salpingostomy) or medication to save the mother's life, with the death of the preborn child being a tragic but inevitable side effect,” she said.
Do women need abortion for miscarriages?
Roughly 10-25% of known pregnancies end in miscarriage, according to CDC estimates. Raviele said that a woman generally begins bleeding, indicating that she is going to miscarry, after her baby has already died.
“If an ultrasound is done and detects a fetal demise but the patient is not bleeding, it is considered a missed ab,” she said, referring to a “missed abortion” where the baby is dead but remains inside of the mother. “If she does not pass the products of conception in a reasonable length of time, a D&C [dilation and curettage] may be necessary or she may be given misoprostol to facilitate contractions.”
While D&C or misoprostol can be used in abortions, they are not considered abortions in this case, because the baby is already dead.
Harrison added: “In a miscarriage, the baby has already died of natural causes, and the aim of any procedure to treat the miscarriage is to help the woman's body pass the baby and any other pregnancy tissue.”
In contrast, with an elective abortion, “the baby is alive, and the goal of the procedure is to end its life,” she said.
Do women need abortion for other life-threatening situations?
The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) says that women need abortion in certain cases to avoid death — or that certain complications or conditions “may be so severe that abortion is the only measure to preserve a woman’s health or save her life.”
In response, Raviele said that ACOG is “contributing to misinformation” and described what would happen in a life-threatening situation.
“If the woman has a serious complication of pregnancy and has to be delivered, you would either induce labor (pre-eclampsia or a cardiac condition) or you would do an emergency cesarean section to save both the mother and the baby,” she said, emphasizing that babies can survive outside the womb as early as 22 weeks.
“You never have to kill the baby to save the mother,” she concluded. “We try to save both.”
Here, Harrison said, “ACOG is conflating different old definitions of abortion to deliberately obscure the fact that an elective abortion is specifically designed to end the life of the human being in the womb for no medical reason.”
She repeatedly stressed that the separation of a mother and her unborn baby to save the mother’s life is not the same as an elective abortion.
“Sometimes, women face life-threatening complications … in which the only way to save their lives is to separate them from their preborn children,” she said, providing the examples of ectopic pregnancy, severe preeclampsia, chorioamnionitis, and HELLP syndrome.
“In the case of an ectopic pregnancy, this involves removing the embryo from the woman's fallopian tube,” she said. “In the case of the other complications listed, it involves prematurely inducing labor or performing a C-section.
These “lifesaving procedures” are not abortions, she said, because “they do not have as their primary purpose to kill the preborn child in the process.”
“In fact, in many cases, the added goal of killing the child would prove counterproductive if the woman is facing a health emergency, as it takes up to several days to prep the mother's cervix for a late-term abortion, whereas a C-section can be completed in less than 30 minutes,” she added.
What does the Catholic Church say about abortion?
The Catholic Church teaches that abortion is “never permitted,” according to the “Ethical and Religious Directives for Catholic Health Care Services,” published by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB).
The U.S. bishops go on to define abortion as the “directly intended termination of pregnancy before viability or the directly intended destruction of a viable fetus,” or a baby who can survive outside the womb.
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 directives. The intention and action, in that case, are to save the mother’s life. It is not to end her baby’s life through abortion.
“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.