"Does the Church allow abortion if the mother's life is at risk?"

By Paul Dion, STL

On the April 30, 2007 episode of the "The Sean Hannity Show" on the Fox News Channel, Republican presidential hopeful Sam Brownback cleared up his position on the abortion issue.

Normally this is not an issue which discusses very often, but given the circumstances and the belief that there is much for us Christians to learn from this interchange between Hannity and Brownback, is convinced that a thoughtful discussion about what Sam Brownback said in response to Hannity's question is in order.

Toward the end of the interview, Hannity asked Brownback if he believed there should be any legal exceptions for abortion such as rape, incest, or saving the life of the mother. Brownback clearly stated that there should be absolutely no legal exceptions for abortion. He admitted that such a situation would be tragic but also said that "it's not the baby's fault."

The burning question of the week is simply this: "Do you, dear reader, agree with Senator Sam Brownback that there should be absolutely no legal exceptions for abortion, including saving the mother's life?"

Please state the reasons for your position. will keep itself engaged in the discussion.

You can also check out this related article I wrote on the topic: Thalidomide, Rape, Abortion, God.


  1. Anonymous7:25 PM

    It's a simple question, with a simple answer - No!
    Perhaps it's so simple for me because my mother faced that very question - Due to a serious heart condition, she would die by the time she was four months pregnant with me. Not "she might have a hard time" or "she might become sick" - but "YOU'LL BE DEAD, SO WILL THE BABY, AND YOUR SON WILL BE LEFT WITHOUT A MOTHER! - AND OH, IF SOMEHOW YOU SURVIVE, THE BABY WILL BE RETARDED, AND DISABLED AND YOU'LL BE SO SICK AND CRIPPLED YOU'LL BOTH HAVE TO BE INSTITUTIONALIZED AND YOU'D WISH YOU WERE DEAD"

    Deliver early? - sure! Deliberately destroy the child? - Never!

  2. Anonymous8:24 PM

    If your mother is still alive and standing up to the world, I hope she'll get to appreciate the good she has done with her spiritual and human strength.
    If she is not, you are and you have just repreated her sermon to the world.

  3. Anonymous6:30 AM

    I didn't see the show on television, I was pleasantly surprised after reading Brownbacks quote. There is no exeception! A child is a child, not matter how it was conceieved. No matter what risk it has for its mother. Our Lord often works in ways that we have trouble understanding. This is when our faith must step in and we need to truely put our trust in Him. Thank you God for giving us life and for giving our mothers strength.

  4. Anonymous7:16 AM

    No!abortion is out of the question. We must always remember that no matter what the doctor says our true physician is God, and with God ALL things are possible. I myself have had seven c-sections with some complications,but as tough as some pregnancies have gone, prayers have been answered. My doctor cant believe how well I have healed. Well I do and all praise and glory go to God!

  5. Anonymous8:36 AM

    Everything medically possible should be done to save both mother and child. If the child can not live with adequate life support then the parents should decide if the child be taken off life support.

  6. My problem with the replies so far is the total disregard of the life of the mother. In both cases you are dealing with murder. Abort the baby you are taking life; let the mother die to safely deliver the baby is also taking life as the doctor has the power to save the mother by terminating the birth process.
    In the case of allowing the mother to die becaue of birth is deliberately destroying the mother. You can try to say nice religious talk but if to save the baby you kill the mother for whatever good reason, is still taking a life that you have the power to save. Do we look to the law of the greatest evil/lesser evil debate?
    Frankly, with the advances in medicine can't see where the situation would come up but it is not an easy moral answer and it is not as black and white as we might like.

  7. "Everything medically possible should be done to save both mother and child. If the child can not live with adequate life support then the parents should decide if the child be taken off life support."

    This is only true if that "life support" is extraordinary, and not "ordinary", such as food and water...

  8. Anonymous8:12 PM

    Abortion is a sin!! If you really are a good Catholic you would know what to do. Like linda said its a simple question and a simple answer, NO!!.....-a 14 year old

  9. Anonymous8:27 PM

    To: ..."a 14 year old":

    You bet! It's a sin. No one can make the decision to cause the death of the fetus in order to save the life of the mother. I hope many people will read your comment.
    Paul Dion, STL Theology Editor

  10. Anonymous8:52 AM

    For Senator Brownback to make such a comment her has absolutely no regard for women and is a person only a mother can love.

  11. Anonymous10:44 AM

    Anonymous, 8:52 AM:
    Senator Brownback's's statement is exactly correct and not indicative of his disregard for women but of his deep respect for the preservation of prenatal life. It is also in perfect alignment with the moral teachings of our Holy Mother the Church.

    Paul Dion, STL Theology Editor

  12. Anonymous4:02 PM

    It used to be simpler, the unbaptized life took precedence over the baptized because to die without the sacrament was to be eternally without God. Our consciousness of God's mercy has grown so that now that is not the stark choice. We are told to trust the innocent un-baptized to the Mercy of God (Catechism 1261). The mother having been baptized and having lived a life may be in more danger than the unborn infant. First get mom shriven then forget about giving one life for the other and set about saving all the lives you can. If, in the attempt to save both lives, one is lost that's a tragedy but not a sin or a crime. If it is absolutely impossible to save both lives it seems to me that one should go with the odds, as it were, and seek the most probable successful intervention. Surely to save neither is the worst outcome.

  13. Anonymous4:09 PM

    To carry our cross is to deny ourselves for others... To carry our cross is to deny ourselves for others....Christ did that for us! We should imitate Jesus...Saint Gianna Molla gave up her life to give life to her daughter...
    Matthew 16: 24-25
    Then Jesus said to his disciples, "Whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me. 25
    For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it."

    Gianna meditated long and prayerfully on God’s will for her. “What is a vocation?”, she wrote: “It is a gift from God – it comes from God Himself! Our concern, then, should be to know the will of God. We should enter onto the path that God wills for us, not by ‘forcing the door’, but when God wills and as God wills” (in Blessed Gianna Beretta Molla: A Woman’s Life. Boston: Pauline Books, 2002, p 71, 72). Gianna believed she was called to marriage and family life, but she waited patiently for God’s will to be revealed.

    Early in the pregnancy of Gianna Molla it was discovered that she had a fibroma, a benign tumor, on her uterine wall. Surgery that would involve aborting the baby was suggested, but the Mollas instantly and firmly rejected this idea, and chose surgery that would remove only the tumor. Because of her medical knowledge, Gianna understood more fully than most the risks involved in this delicate surgery – both to her and to her unborn child. She insisted that the baby be protected at all costs.

    The surgery successfully removed the fibroma, and the pregnancy continued, apparently normally, and the family made plans for the future in joy and hope. But all was not well, and a few days before the baby was born, Gianna realized it would be a difficult – possibly life-threatening delivery. She asked her husband to promise that if it were necessary to choose between saving her and saving the baby, he should choose the baby. “I insist”, she said.

    On Good Friday, Gianna entered the hospital. And a lovely, healthy baby daughter, Gianna Emanuela, was born the next day, April 21, 1962. But the mother had developed a fatal infection – septic peritonitis. (Modern antibiotics most likely would have saved her.) The inflammation caused immense suffering during her final week on earth. In the midst of her terrible pain, Gianna called to her own mother, Maria, who had died in 1942 – and she prayed. As she lay dying, she repeated, “Jesus, I love you”, over and over.

    Her agony ended on April 28 – at home. She was 39. The tiny infant, Gianna Emanuela, was exactly one week old.

    "A woman of exceptional love, an outstanding wife and mother, she gave witness in her daily life to the demanding values of the Gospel”. In his homily on the occasion of her beatification, April 24, 1994, Pope John Paul II proposed Gianna Beretta Molla as a model for all mothers: “By holding up this woman as an exemplar of Christian perfection, we would like to extol all those high-spirited mothers of families who give themselves completely to their family, who suffer in giving birth, who are prepared for every labor and every kind of sacrifice, so that the best they have can be given to others".

    “Following the example of Christ, who "having loved his own... loved them to the end" (Jn 13: 1), this holy mother of a family remained heroically faithful to the commitment she made on the day of her marriage. The extreme sacrifice she sealed with her life testifies that only those who have the courage to give of themselves totally to God and to others are able to fulfil themselves.

    “Through the example of Gianna Beretta Molla, may our age rediscover the pure, chaste and fruitful beauty of conjugal love, lived as a response to the divine call!”

    -- From the canonization homily of Pope John Paul II, May 16, 2004


    From Women for Faith and Family