PHOENIX – A nun and administrator at a Catholic hospital in Phoenix has been reassigned and rebuked by the local bishop for agreeing that a severely ill woman needed an abortion to survive.

Sister Margaret McBride was on an ethics committee that included doctors who consulted with a woman who was 11 weeks pregnant late last year, The Arizona Republic newspaper reported on its website Saturday.

The woman had a life-threatening condition that likely would have caused her death if she hadn’t had the abortion at St. Joseph’s Hospital and Medical Center.

Hospital officials defended McBride’s actions but confirmed that she has been reassigned from her job as vice president of mission integration at the hospital.

They said in a statement that saving the mother required that the fetus be aborted.

“In this tragic case, the treatment necessary to save the mother’s life required the termination of an 11-week pregnancy,” hospital Vice President Susan Pfister said in an e-mail to the newspaper.

Bishop Thomas J. Olmsted, head of the Phoenix Diocese, indicated in a statement that the Roman Catholic involved was “automatically excommunicated” because of the action. The Catholic Church allows the termination of a pregnancy only as a secondary effect of other treatments, such as radiation of a cancerous uterus.

“I am gravely concerned by the fact that an abortion was performed several months ago in a Catholic hospital in this diocese,” Olmsted said in a statement sent to The Arizona Republic.

“I am further concerned by the hospital’s statement that the termination of a human life was necessary to treat the mother’s underlying medical condition.

“An unborn child is not a disease. While medical professionals should certainly try to save a pregnant mother’s life, the means by which they do it can never be by directly killing her unborn child.

“The end does not justify the means.”