What is the Church’s Teaching on Treating Ectopic Pregnancies? (Special Podcast Highlight)

Patrick Madrid welcomes John from New Jersey, a dedicated pro-lifer with a pressing question on a tricky topic: ectopic pregnancies. John has heard conflicting advice on whether it’s morally permissible to end an ectopic pregnancy to save the mother’s life. He wants to know what the Catholic Church teaches.


Patrick’s Breakdown:


Understanding Ectopic Pregnancies:


An ectopic pregnancy occurs when a fertilized egg implants outside the uterus, usually in a fallopian tube. This condition is life-threatening for both the mother and the baby and is a heartbreaking situation.


Church’s Teaching – The Principle of Double Effect:


The principle of double effect is crucial here. It allows for an action that has both a positive effect (saving the mother’s life) and a negative effect (the unintended death of the child), provided the negative effect is not the intended outcome.


Three Foundations of a Moral Act:


Object of the Act: The act itself, such as removing the damaged fallopian tube, is not inherently immoral.


Intention: The intention behind the act is to save the mother’s life, not to kill the child.


Circumstances: The context is that without intervention, both the mother and child would die.


Key Distinction:


Directly killing the child to save the mother is always immoral. The Church would never allow this. 


However, removing the fallopian tube (even though the child cannot survive this procedure) is morally permissible because the primary intent is to save the mother’s life, not to end the child’s.


Takeaway: The Catholic Church’s teaching on ectopic pregnancies hinges on the principle of double effect, ensuring that actions taken are morally sound, focusing on saving lives without intending harm. 

Patrick Madrid is an acclaimed public speaker and has authored or edited 26 books, which have sold over a million copies worldwide, including foreign-language editions. He hosts The Patrick Madrid Show daily on Relevant Radio.