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The Holy See’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith has affirmed that a hysterectomy can be morally licit in specific cases when the uterus is unable to sustain a pregnancy.

The Holy Office published their response to a question concerning the licitness of hysterectomies in certain cases last week. They were asked:

“When the uterus is found to be irreversibly in such a state that it is no longer suitable for procreation and medical experts have reached the certainty that an eventual pregnancy will bring about a spontaneous abortion before the fetus is able to arrive at a viable state, is it licit to remove it (hysterectomy)?”

The response was signed Dec 10th, 2018 by Prefect Cardinal Luis Ferrer and Secretary Archbishop Giacomo Morandi, with approval by Pope Francis to publish the document.

The CDF affirmed the moral licitness of hysterectomies performed in “situations in which procreation is no longer possible,” because “it does not regard sterilization,” when

“The uterus is found to be irreversibly in such a state that it is no longer suitable for procreation and medical experts have reached the certainty that an eventual pregnancy will bring about a spontaneous abortion before the fetus is able to arrive at a viable state.”

The CDF clarified this specific question was different to that asked in the similar 1993 response, which stated a hysterectomy is illicit when intended to prevent an eventual pregnancy which can pose some risk for the mother. The present question concerns couples “for which it is not possible to procreate,” not a matter of weighing the risks of a possible pregnancy. The difference between the 1993 and latest response is:

“The certainty reached by medical experts that in the case of a pregnancy, it would be spontaneously interrupted before the fetus arrives at a state of viability. Therefore, we are not dealing with a defective, or risky, functioning of the reproductive organs, but we are faced here with a situation in which the natural end of bringing a living child into the world is not attainable.”

You can read the full document released by the CDF on the Vatican’s website here.

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