What should one do when the life of mother and/or child is in danger?

This deals with a problem that, happily, has become most rare in practice. Nonetheless questions about this are very frequent. To what principles can we refer?

a) A good intention does not suffice to change the value of a moral act. More simply: the end does not justify the means. Thus one may not execute an innocent person in order to save the country. To save the Fatherland is a good end, but the goodness of the end does not justify sacrificing an innocent person. Nor do circumstances change the moral value of an act which is intrinsically evil. They can only attenuate or aggravate the responsibility of the agent.

b) The principle for solving this question is simple: one does not choose between the life of the mother and that of the child. One may not sacrifice an innocent life for another. Nevertheless, while doing everything possible to save the mother and preserve the life of the infant, the latter can perish due to the intervention. We desire above all to save both, but in doing everything that is humanly possible, it can happen that we end up with a consequence we did not desire: the death of the infant.

c) To desire to provoke the death, even indirectly, of an innocent person can never be licit even for a good end, for example saving the mother. It can happen that an action, even a good one like caring for the mother with cancer, entails an unfortunate consequence, neither willed nor desired, in the death of the infant the mother carries.

d) To sum up, it can happen that in trying loyally to save either one, the other becomes a victim. We are in the presence of a similar situation when one searches for victims of a cave-in. What one wishes to do is, first of all, to save everyone who can be saved.

Whenever one performs an act with a double effect, one positive, the other negative, one never wills the negative effect; one is resigned to it: one doesn't desire it; he tolerates it.

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