Con­necti­cut Catholics crit­i­cize Plan B or­der for church-run hos­pi­tals

The Washington Times Weekly - - National - By Pete Vere

Emer­gency “Plan B” con­tra­cep­tion for rape vic­tims has raised a new furor for Ro­man Catholics across the na­tion be­cause of a re­cent or­der to Con­necti­cut’s Catholic hos­pi­tals by the state’s bishops.

The state­ment, is­sued in Septem­ber in re­sponse to a state law, di­rects the hos­pi­tals to pro­vide rape vic­tims with emer­gency “Plan B” con­tra­cep­tion with­out first re­quir­ing an ovu­la­tion test. Pre­vi­ous di­rec­tives al­lowed Catholic hos­pi­tals in the state to ad­min­is­ter “Plan B” only if an ovu­la­tion test and preg­nancy test came back neg­a­tive.

“This past spring the Gov­er­nor signed into a law ‘An Act Con­cern­ing Com­pas­sion­ate Care for Vic­tims of Sex­ual As­sault,’ passed by the State Leg­is­la­ture,” the bishops said in the state­ment. “It does not al­low med­i­cal pro­fes­sion­als to take into ac­count the re­sults of the ovu­la­tion test.”

The Rev. John Gatzak, spokesman for the Arch­dio­cese of Hartford, con­firmed that the bishops made the de­ci­sion in re­sponse to the new state law. “The state passed a bill stat­ing that all hos­pi­tals will pro­vide Plan B,” Fa­ther Gatzak said. Rape vic­tims “will not be tested for ovu­la­tion; the ovu­la­tion test can­not be ad­min­is­tered. This is state law.”

While the bishops and other Catholic health care pro­fes­sion­als will con­tinue seek­ing changes to the law, see­ing it as “se­ri­ously flawed,” the bishops’ state­ment said the flaws are not se­ri­ous enough “to bar com­pli­ance with [the law] at the present time.”

But some pro-life Catholic groups have crit­i­cized the bishops’ de­ci­sion, say­ing it has the po­ten­tial to make the church com­plicit in abor­tion. Some med­i­cal lit­er­a­ture sug­gests that “Plan B” can cause an early abor­tion if taken at a cer tain time in a wo­man’s men­strual cy­cle.

“There is a ques­tion as to whether the drugs might have the ef­fect of pre­vent­ing im­plan­ta­tion of a new hu­man em­bryo,” said Mike Sul­li­van, pres­i­dent of Catholics United for the Faith. “This is a pos­si­ble abortive ef­fect.”

Mr. Sul­li­van said his group does not op­pose Plan B, a large dose of the fe­male hor­mone used in many oral con­tra­cep­tives, to pre­vent ovu­la­tion in rape vic­tims, which church teach­ing cat­e­go­rizes as self-de­fense. But if preg­nancy has oc­curred, then “Plan B” is an abor­ti­fa­cient and two fun­da­men­tal rights be­gin to clash.

“One is the right of the vic­tim of sex­ual as­sault to re­pel the un­just ag­gres­sor, in­clud­ing pos­si­ble im­preg­na­tion. The other is the nat­u­ral right of ev­ery hu­man life to ex­ist, in­clud­ing the small­est hu­man life, the fer­til­ized egg which be­comes an em­bryo,” he said.

Barry Feld­man, a spokesman on this is­sue for the Con­necti­cut Catholic bishops, said the prelates se­ri­ously dis­cussed whether Plan B was a po­ten­tial abor­ti­fa­cient and de­cided that the bi­o­log­i­cal is­sues were too un­cer­tain.

The di­rec­tive was is­sued only “af­ter talk­ing with med­i­cal ex­perts, sci­en­tists and Catholic ethi­cists,” he said. The bishops de­ter­mined Plan B would be morally per­mis­si­ble with­out first ad­min­is­ter­ing an ovu­la­tion test “be­cause there is suf­fi­cient un­cer­tainty as to whether this med­i­ca­tion acts as an abor­ti­fa­cient.”

Mr. Feld­man, se­nior vice pres­i­dent and gen­eral coun­sel for St. Francis Hospi­tal & Med­i­cal Cen­ter in Hartford, said the bishops still thought the law was un­needed and “in­fringes upon the Con­sti­tu­tion’s pro­tec­tion of re­li­gion.”

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