The abortion took place late last year at St. Joseph's Hospital and Medical Center in Phoenix, Catholic News Service reports. The hospital ethics committee, with the agreement of Mercy Sister Mary Margaret McBride, decided the patient was almost certain to die if the pregnancy continued.
Bishop Thomas J. Olmsted released a statement Friday saying that "the direct killing of an unborn child is always immoral."
"We always must remember that when a difficult medical situation involves a pregnant woman, there are two patients in need of treatment and care, not merely one," Olmsted said. "The unborn child's life is just as sacred as the mother's life, and neither life can be preferred over the other."
The bishop said McBride's action carries a penalty of automatic excommunication. She has also been removed from her position as vice president of mission integration at the hospital and assigned to a new job.