The Catholic Church has never taught that the life of a child in the womb should be preferred to that of a mother. By virtue of their common humanity a mother and her unborn child are both sacred with an equal right to life.
When a seriously ill pregnant woman needs medical treatment which may put the life of her baby at risk, such treatments are ethically permissible provided every effort has been made to save the life of both the mother and her baby.
Whereas abortion is the direct and intentional destruction of an unborn baby and is gravelly immoral in all circumstances, this is different from medical treatments which do not directly or intentionally seek to end the life of the unborn baby.
In his annual address to diplomats accredited to the Holy See Pope Benedict said the following: “ I must note with dismay that, in various countries, even those of Christian tradition, efforts are being made to introduce or expand legislation which decriminalizes abortion. Direct abortion, that is to say willed as an end or as a means, is gravely contrary to the moral law. In affirming this, the Catholic Church is not lacking in understanding and mercy, also towards the mother involved. Rather, it is a question of being vigilant lest the law unjustly alter the balance between the right to life of the mother and that of the unborn child, a right belonging equally to both”.