Here is a young mother, and that too, a doctor specialized in pediatrics, who opted to die to save her two months old fetus. This is her heroic story.
Gianna Beretta Molla was born in Magenta, Italy, on Oct 4, 1922 as the tenth of thirteen children to Alberto Beretta and Maria de Micheli. The God-centered parents gave their children strong Christian faith. Gianna grew up viewing life as God’s beautiful gift.
She began her medical studies in Milan and she specialized in pediatrics. She opened a clinic in Mesero and gave special attention to mothers, babies, poor and elderly. Yet, she also enjoyed with her young friends, skiing, and mountaineering.
The 33 years old Gianna got married to engineer Pietro Molla on Sept 24, 1955. They became parents of three children. She harmonized her demands of wife, mother, doctor and church.
During the second month of her fourth pregnancy in 1961, the doctors diagnosed that Gianna had a fibroid tumour in her uterus. Its size threatened the fetus’ life. The doctors gave her three options: an abortion which would take the babe’s life, but save her life and allow her to conceive; or a complete hysterectomy, due to which the fetus would die and she would not further conceive; or the removal of the fibroid, which might harm the fetus or her and might cause complications in her life.
What will be your choice?
She believed in the Church’s teaching that an unborn fetus too has a fundamental right to life from the moment of conception. So she preferred the third option.
Before the surgery, she told the doctors that her child’s life is more important than hers. She informed her husband too, “If you have to decide between me and the child, do not hesitate to choose the child. I insist: save it.” She entrusted the babe and herself to God in prayer.
Providentially both the mother and the baby survived the surgery. But problems continued throughout the remainder of her pregnancy. The child was delivered by a Caesarian section. But the mother continued to suffer severe pain. After a week, the 39 years old Gianna died of septic peritonitis on April 28, 1962.
Gianna’s example was hailed courageous and her tale spread. Hailing her, Pope Paul VI said, “A young mother, who to give life to her daughter, sacrificed her own.” Canonizing her on May 16, 2004, in the very presence of her husband and children, Pope John Paul II described her as “a simple, but more than ever, significant messenger of divine love.”
Her husband narrated to his children that their mother followed her conscience as a mother, a doctor and a Catholic. This daughter, Gianna Emanuela, has become a doctor of geriatrics like her mother and continues her clinic.
"When we look to the unborn child, the real issue is not when life begins, but when love begins." - Robert Casey, former Governor of Pennsylvania