Connecticut Catholics criticize Plan B order for church-run hospitals
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.”