When it Really is a Woman’s Choice

Sister Margaret McBride

I heard a story the other day about a nun at St. Joseph’s Hospital in Phoenix who was recently excommunicated from the Catholic Church because she chose to approve an abortion. Normally I’m grateful for the Catholic Church’s strong stance on the sanctity of life, but I think they got it wrong here.

The mother, who came in to the hospital 11 weeks pregnant and very ill, was suffering from a heart condition that the doctors said would kill her if the pregnancy was not terminated. To top it off, in this case, with the unborn only at 11 weeks, if the mother had died, the baby would have as well.

If the doctors truly believed that this woman would die, then I feel this is the only time that she would have the right to choose whether or not to keep her baby.  What this presents is a moral dilemma. You have two valuable human lives.  In this case, both were in jeopardy, but even if the unborn child was further along, and could have survived outside the womb, I still think it’s the mother’s choice.

In a way, I look at as self defense. In every other case, abortion takes the life of an innocent human being without sufficient justification. In this case, while the child is innocent, if his or her’s continued presence in the mother’s womb will cause the mother to die, then I think it is up to the mother whether she continues with the pregnancy. It should be her choice as to whether she is willing to sacrifice her life for that of her unborn child.

There are some on the pro-life side who will insist this is still wrong. They feel that if God created that child, then the mother should not interfere with His plan by taking the child’s life.  They will say that the mother needs to have faith that all will work out as it is supposed to. Again, to me, it’s a moral dilemma. Both lives are valuable. It’s not a decision I would want to make. In fact, anyone who would dogmatically hold that the baby should live no matter the outcome would have to put themselves in that position–either as the mother who would likely die, or the husband who would likely lose his wife.  I don’t think you can truly know how you would handle it unless you were in that situation.



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2 Responses to “When it Really is a Woman’s Choice”


  • Comment from Laura Droege

    What a sad and difficult situation. I really don’t know what I would do in those circumstances, although I think I would feel guilty and selfish if I chose abortion over my own life. But truly, I don’t know how I would handle that or how I would advise a woman in that situation.

    One thing that came to mind as I read this: I was doing some research recently on the notorious Nazi doctor Josef Mengele, and ran across the name of a Jewish doctor who worked under him. A prisoner at Auschwitz and forced to work with Mengele, this woman began performing abortions on the pregnant women in the camp. She wrote later that it broke her heart to kill those babies, but if the pregnancy continued, the woman and the child would be killed; thus, this doctor felt she had to save at least one life…but it came at the price of another’s.

    Obviously, a different situation than the one you’ve described, but a similiar moral dilemma.

    • Comment from Rick Yuzzi

      If she was at Auschwitz I suspect they were performing abortions on every single Jewish woman regardless of the woman or the baby’s condition , since they were exterminating the Jews. It’s an interesting analogy that goes to show you the eventual consequences of devaluing a life because it is different from you or because you deem it less than human. This is how many pro-choice advocates prefer to think about the unborn. They don’t see a fetus as human, or try to disqualify its value as a human being by one of several factors. But, our worth (or lack of worth) is not determined by our size, level of development, environment or degree of dependency. Those who argue for abortion based on these factors would also disqualify all babies, children and even some adults. All humans are valuable, and should not be killed for frivolous reasons. We are endowed with intrinsic value by the fact that we are human, and that humanity begins at the moment of conception.