In 1961, Gianna was once again expecting. During the second month, Gianna developed a fibroma on her uterus. After examination, the doctors gave her three choices: an abortion, a complete hysterectomy, or removal of only the fibroma. Though the Catholic Church forbids all direct abortion even when the woman's life is in danger, Catholic teaching would have allowed her to undergo a hysterectomy, which would have resulted in her unborn child's death as an unintended side-effect.
"Abortion – that is, the directly intended termination of pregnancy before viability or the directly intended destruction of a viable fetus – is never permitted...Operations, treatments, and medications that have as their direct purpose the cure of a proportionately serious pathological condition of a pregnant woman are permitted when they cannot be safely postponed until the unborn child is viable, even if they will result in the death of the unborn child." – The Ethical and Religious Directives for Catholic Health Care Services (ERD) Directive 45
Gianna opted for the removal of the fibroma, wanting to preserve her child's life.
After the operation, complications continued throughout her pregnancy. Gianna was quite clear about her wishes, expressing to her family, "This time it will be a difficult delivery, and they may have to save one or the other -- I want them to save my baby."
On April 21, 1962, Good Friday of that year, Gianna went to the hospital, where her fourth child, Gianna Emanuela, was successfully delivered via Caesarean section. However, Gianna continued to have severe pain, and died of septic peritonitis 7 days after the birth.
Gianna was beatified by Pope John Paul II on April 24, 1994, and officially canonized a saint on May 16, 2004. Gianna's husband Pietro and their last child, Gianna, were present at the canonization ceremony.
The miracle recognized by the Catholic Church to canonize Gianna Molla involved a mother, Elizabeth Comparini, who was 16 weeks pregnant in 2003 and sustained a tear in her placenta that drained her womb of all amniotic fluid. Because a normal term of pregnancy is 40 weeks, Comparini was told by her doctors the baby's chance of survival was "nil."
Comparini asserted that through praying to Gianna Molla and asking for her intercession, she was able to deliver a healthy baby despite the lack of amniotic fluid.
In his homily at her canonization Mass, Pope John Paul II called Gianna "a simple, but more than ever, significant messenger of divine love."
Maria Zita (Mariolina) Molla died in 1964 at the age of six, from a rare complication of measles.
Pietro Molla, died at 97 in 2010 nearly 50 years after Saint Gianna died.
St. Gianna is the inspiration behind the Gianna Center in New York City. It is the first pro-life, Catholic healthcare center for women in New York. The Gianna Center provides comprehensive primary care with specialized gynecologic care.