Before reading about this disturbing saint, it is important to have some background knowledge about the Catholic doctrine of double-effect.
Gianna Molla was a well-respected Italian physician and devoted mother to three children. In 1961 she became pregnant with her fourth child. During this time, she also learned that she had a fibroma on her uterus, a condition which caused her pregnancy to be life-threatening. Her doctors gave her three options:
1.) Abortion and removal of the fibroma when she was no longer pregnant -- This option would be the least risky to Gianna's long term health. At the same time, she would lose her baby, who was very much welcomed and desired. Abortion is also considered a mortal sin by the Catholic Church, and choosing this would be a violation of Gianna's faith.
2.) A hysterectomy -- This option would be more risky than an abortion, as it would require major surgery. Gianna would loose her baby, and her ability to have any other children in the future. However, this would be allowed by the Catholic Church under the doctrine of double effect.
3.) Removal of the fibroma -- This option would be the most risky due to the expansion of the uterus that comes with pregnancy. Gianna could continue with her pregnancy, but would have a high likelihood of dieing as a result of infection and bleeding.
Gianna chose option 3. She gave birth to a healthy baby girl, but died a few days after giving birth.
I classify Gianna Molla as a disturbing saint, not because I think she necessarily made the wrong choice. Indeed her choice does reflect a sense of heroic virtue. Her choice was not easy, and none of her options were good. Rather, I classify her as a disturbing saint because her actions reveal the womb fetish within Catholic teaching.
Gianna Molla is not primarily remembered for her work as a physician or for her devotion for her children. Indeed, the primary action that makes her a saint, is is her risky medical decision to continue her pregnancy. Indeed, she is now the patron saint of the pro-life movement.
I can't help but wonder, would she have been a saint if she had chose the hysterectomy? According to Catholic doctrine, this action is not considered sinful. But if she had gone this route and lived a long life as a good Catholic physician and mother, I doubt she would be revered as a saint. This shows that her status as a saint is primarily the result of her reproductive decisions. Indeed, it further reveals that this is the apex of a woman's worth--not her charitable work in her profession or in her home, but what she does with her reproductive organs.
Gianna Molla's options reveal another disturbing feature of Catholic thought. Option 2, the hysterectomy, carries a sort of moral neutrality, due to double effect. But having a direct abortion is a mortal sin. Either way, Gianna Molla would lose her baby, and the only real difference between these two is the health and safety of Gianna Molla, herself. The riskier option is considered less sinful than the least risky choice. When viewed this way, having a hysterectomy is in some way like paying a tax for terminating the pregnancy. Abortion carries no such tax on a woman's physical body, but with a hysterectomy, the woman gives her uterus in exchange for having her pregnancy terminated--guilt free.
Overall, Giana Molla is a disturbing saint, not for her actions, but for what her sainthood reveals about the value of women in the Catholic Church.