Breaking: Catholic Bishops in CT to allow Plan B?!
Update: The Connecticut Bishops have released their statement. Coverage here.
The Hartford Courant:
In a major softening of their position, the state's Catholic bishops announced today that Catholic hospitals would comply with a new law that takes effect Monday that requires them to dispense emergency contraceptive pills to rape victims.
... and the AP has picked-up the story here:
The Catholic church had lobbied strongly against the proposal at the state Capitol for more than one year, and some insiders believed the Church might file a lawsuit to block the law. Church officials, though, had said only that they were considering their options and never said that they would file a suit."
The Bishops and other Catholic health care leaders believe that this law is seriously flawed, but not sufficiently to bar compliance with it at the present time,'' the bishops said in a statement. "We continue to believe this law should be changed.''
This news is very disturbing if it is true. And sadly, I think it is.
Roman Catholic bishops have agreed to let hospital personnel give emergency contraception to all rape victims, reversing their decision days before a new state law requires it.
The church had fought the state law by arguing it would force Catholic medical personnel to perform chemical abortions because they may be providing emergency contraception to women who are ovulating. The Catholic hospitals wanted to first perform ovulation tests, but lawmakers did not include such tests in the legislation.
The bishops now say that administering the drug, sold as Plan B, cannot be judged as an abortion.
This quotation sheds a little bit more light as to the purported reasons for the decision:
But Catholic Bishops of Connecticut and leaders of the Catholic hospitals said in a joint statement Thursday that "since the teaching authority of the church has not definitively resolved this matter and since there is serious doubt about how Plan B pills work," the hospitals will be allowed to provide Plan B to rape victims without first requiring ovulation tests.I can't find this document and it is frustrating that the Connecticut Catholic Conference does not have it readily available (unless I am hugely missing something). A visit to the website does, however, reveal that earlier this year Bishop Lori strongly protested the passage of this legislation. In fact, the Connecticut bishops have been fighting a long battle to resist this legislation as an unlawful imposition upon the self-governance of Catholic hospitals.
So what changed?
Certainly not the medical facts related to Plan B, nor the teaching that one cannot administer a pill with abortifacient properties if no testing has been done to rule-out the possibility of a pregnancy. The Church already has outlined the principles by which it is impermissible to administer abortifacients when there is the possible presence of a newly-conceived human being.
More as I read it....
Update: A simple fact that needs to be ascertained is whether or not any testing is done prior to the administration of Plan B, and whether or not the results of the test (i.e., that the woman is in fact pregnant or has in fact ovulated and possibly pregnant) have normative value upon whether or not Plan B is administered. Currently, from the reporting I've read, the bill allows a pregnancy test to be administered but not an ovulation test. This isn't enough, from the previous literature I've read on the question. An ovulation test is not difficult or intrusive, and it yields important information (albeit information that some people might not like to receive).And for more context/history, read below what the CCBC said in its July 12th legislative wrap-up:
Again, what changed?
The General Assembly passed, and the Governor signed, legislation (S.B.1343) mandating that all hospitals, including Catholic hospitals allow the distribution of the morning after pill (commonly known as Plan “B”) to victims of sexual assault, even in situations where it may cause an abortion. Connecticut’s Catholic hospitals do provide Plan “B” to rape victims in almost all cases. The hospitals will not provide it when it may abort a conceived human life. S.B. 1343 would force the hospitals to provide this medication even in those cases. This legislation is a serious violation of the religious freedom of Catholic hospitals. This piece of legislation was proclaimed by the Connecticut chapter of the abortions right group NARAL to be one of their biggest victories in the last ten years. The bishops of Connecticut are reviewing options of how to respond to this breach of the separation of Church and State, and preserve religious freedom in our state.
For rape protocol guidelines that respect human life and Church teaching, see the Peoria Protocol as it is described in this article. Note, chemical contraceptives (with abortifacient properties) are not to be proscribed if the woman has already ovulated.Incidentally, though importantly, it is rare for a rape victim to ovulate because the trauma of the incident causes the body to naturally skip ovulation. Nonetheless, it should be determined that ovulation has in fact been suspended.
Also, one should keep in mind that conception rarely occurs as a result of rape, (0-4% in most studies). Where new human life may exist however, one must take the necessary precautions to ensure that an already conceived child is not killed. The Church teaches that a rape victim has every right to impede/prevent conception but no right to kill a child already conceived. [revision: some careful readers have asked for a source document to support my claim about the Church's teaching. It originates from the US Bishop's Ethical & Religious Directives for Catholic Health Care Services, Fourth Edition:
#36 Compassionate and understanding care should be given to a person who is the victim of sexual assault. Health care providers should cooperate with law enforcement officials and offer the person psychological and spiritual support as well as accurate medical information. A female who has been raped should be able to defend herself against a potential conception from the sexual assault. If, after appropriate testing, there is no evidence that conception has occurred already, she may be treated with medications that would prevent ovulation, sperm capacitation, or fertilization. [this provides the clarification] It is not permissible, however, to initiate or to recommend treatments that have as their purpose or direct effect the removal, destruction, or interference with the implantation of a fertilized ovum. [this is why Plan B can be immoral.]Thanks to t2irish for providing this source.]
Update 2: Calls to various numbers at the CCBC result in voicemail. Admittedly it's past office hours. I've sent them an email because I'd like to read their actual statement and not press reports. It's unfortunate how often the mainstream media beats even the official Catholic channels to the punch for a story. When will they learn that this downtime between action and website publication is harmfully occupied and manipulated by the mainstream reporting? It's much harder to combat erroneous reporting when the secular presses have greater access to the source documents than those who want to defend (and explain) Church teaching and decision making!
Update 3: Jeff Miller has also posted on this story and directly addresses the problem with proscribing Plan B - a known abortifacient - in cases where ovulation (and thus conception) may have occurred. In fact, Plan B itself admits that it acts to prevent a fertilized egg (= new human life) from implanting in the mother's uterus (= forced miscarriage) on its warning label. How can the science be ambiguous if the opposition admits the medical fact which prompts the objection?
Update 4 (11:30PM): This story is generating a great deal of press because it represents a reversal of position, so to speak, coming after a long and hard-fought struggle nationwide between Catholic bishops and cival legislators. Predictably, secular sources are mischaracterizing and overemphasizing the content of the decision, all while the general public do not have access to the actual documentation.
In this atmosphere of confusion it is hoped that an authoritative body (either the CCBC or USCCB, for instance) will soon issue a clarifying statement to the faithful. Numerous Catholic blogs and news sources have linked to my coverage and I will happily provide a forum for that clarification should it be issued. Let's pray that our bishops may provide clarity, conviction and a resolution to the controversy.
Until such a statement is available, it might be useful to note the plentiful amount of material available on the CCBC website related tothis topic. All of which, prior to today's decision, support the position that Plan B should not be administered to patients who may have ovulated because it has a proven abortifacient effect in cases of fertilization:
- Abortion / Parental Notification /The Plan "B" Issue - Resource page
- Connecticut Catholic Hospitals and Emergency Contraception: "If the woman is already in the ovulation stage of her cycle, then Plan B cannot have a contraceptive effect. In these cases, the only objective of administering Plan B is to impede the implantation of a fertilized ovum, which is abortion that the Catholic hospital cannot perform directly or in cooperation with others....The secondary mechanism of Plan B is to prevent the implantation of a fertilized ovum, which is abortion. This is confirmed on the manufacturer’s web site that says, “Plan B® may also work by preventing it (the fertilized egg) from attaching to the uterus (womb)....When Plan B cannot act as a contraceptive, it can only act to cause an abortion. Forcing Catholic hospitals to provide Plan B in these situations forces the hospitals to perform abortions."
- News release: Governor’s approval of Plan B legislation “a serious violation of religious liberty in our Constitution State” says Bishop William Lori; urges lawmakers to revisit issue and protect conscience rights of all religious institutions
- A PDF file of Bishop Lori's letter to Governor Rell (also signed by Bishop Cote of Norwich and Archbishop Mansell of Hartford), providing reasons to oppose the bill and requesting that the governor veto it. This statement is documented proof that each of the three Roman Catholic Bishops of Connecticut have previously opposed the same bill they are now allegedly permitting to be implimented in their Catholic hospitals.
Update 5 (10:30AM): The Connecticut Bishops have released their statement. Coverage here.