The Catholic Church and abortion to save a life

This story in the Seattle Times (Now also in the Guardian) tells us about a Catholic hospital that has had its affiliation with the church withdrawn because they performed an abortion that was the only way to save the mothers life. The woman in question was suffering from pulmonary hypertension, which could only be resolved by ending her pregnancy. Doctors gave her a 100% chance of dying within hours.

The story has been picked and written about by a prominent atheist and denounced as proof that the church is evil. Although I left the Catholic church a couple of years ago in protest at several other teachings that I disagree with, I rushed to comment and defend the church. I wanted to say that this was a misreading of what the church teaches, that it was just this Bishop that was wrong. Except that I couldn’t.

I was always under the impression that the Catholic Church would allow an abortion if it would save the life of the mother and otherwise both mother and baby would die. However on reading the catechism and New Advent it seems that I am wrong. The catechism is absolutely clear that abortion is never allowed and it makes no mention of abortion as an accidental result of life-saving medical treatment. The only exception that I could find in New Advent says

However, if medical treatment or surgical operation, necessary to save a mother’s life, is applied to her organism (though the child’s death would, or at least might, follow as a regretted but unavoidable consequence), it should not be maintained that the fetal life is thereby directly attacked.

While this allows for providing life-saving medical treatment that might inadvertantly cause an abortion, it makes no exception for performing an abortion if ending the pregnancy itself is the only way to save the mothers life.

I cannot agree with this view. What sense does it make to condemn both mother and baby to death? There is no way that I can defend the punishment of those doctors that saved a mothers life, after convening their hospitals ethics committee too, I should add. The staff at this hospital do their utmost save lives and ease suffering and to abide by the ethical and moral code of the hospital and the church. To those atheists that say the churches decision is evil; I can’t argue that you are wrong.