Bp. Lori issues clarification on CT Plan B decision
I'm very happy he published this statement, although I would have preferred that it appeared in a more official context than his personal blog. Still, it's available, and hopefully more so now.
Plan B, an issue previously discussed in this blog (“Sad State of the Constitution State”, April 24th—see “Archive”) is back in the news. Many of you posted comments about those media reports, so I’d like to offer a number of clarifications and some additional perspective.
Last spring, the Connecticut Bishops worked hard to defeat the so-called “Plan B” legislation. It’s not that the Church opposes administering Plan B to victims of rape; these women have suffered a gravely unjust assault. Last year, nearly 75 rape victims were treated in the four Connecticut Catholic hospitals; no one was denied Plan B as the result of the Catholic hospital protocols which required both a pregnancy test and an ovulation test prior to the administration of that drug.
What’s really at issue here is how much testing is appropriate to ensure that Plan B does not induce the chemical abortion of a fertilized ovum. There is uncertainty about how Plan B works. Its effect is to prevent fertilization of the ovum. Some believe, however, that in rare instances Plan B can render the lining of the uterus inhospitable to the fertilized ovum which must implant in it in order to survive and grow; many other experts dispute this. For their part, the Bishops of Connecticut felt it was best not only to administer the standard FDA-approved pregnancy test, but also an ovulation test. However, this course of action was only a prudential judgment, not a matter of settled Church teaching and practice. Other bishops and moral theologians hold that a pregnancy test alone suffices. Indeed, the Church does not teach that it is intrinsically evil to administer Plan B without first giving an ovulation test or that those who do so are committing an abortion.
Unfortunately, Connecticut Legislature decided last spring to settle the question of whether both tests are necessary, instead of letting the Church do so in her own way. The Governor signed into law a measure that forbids health care professionals from using the results of an ovulation test in treating a rape victim. We bishops, as well as health care professionals, continue to believe this law is seriously flawed and should be changed. You should also know that we carefully explored with very competent experts the possibility of challenging the law. Unfortunately, such a challenge would most likely not succeed. Failure of the hospitals to comply would put them and their staffs at risk.
In the course of this discussion, every possible option was discussed at length with medical-moral experts faithful to the Church’s teaching, with legal experts especially in the area of constitutional law, and with hospital personnel. “Reluctant compliance” emerged as the only viable option. In permitting Catholic hospitals to comply with this law, neither our teaching nor our principles have changed. We have only altered the prudential judgment we previously made; this was done for the good of our Catholic hospitals and those they serve.
At the same time, we remain open to new developments in medical science which hopefully will bring greater clarity to this matter. Above all, we continue to pray for the healing of those who are victims of sexual assault.
Bp. Lori's statement does not add anything "new" to the debate, it merely endorses some of the speculation that has occurred here and elsewhere. In it, crucially, he reminds us that "neither Church teaching nor principles have changed" on this issue. But the prudence of allowing the CT legislature to further violate the autonomy of Catholic hospital practice remains up for debate, in my opinion. In essence the CT bishops decided that they did not want to draw a line in the sand on this issue. But with each concession it becomes more difficult to draw it when the time comes. And I think it will, soon.
"Reluctant compliance", as Bp. Lori calls it, is hardly an ideal state of affairs....
Update: Since this story is still receiving attention I'd like to copy what was said before here:
I am working with a couple of knowledgeable contributors to produce a summary of the recent relevant medical findings on Plan B, ovulation testing, and related issues. I hope to have that posted by the end of this week. Contributions to that project are welcome, if you want to email me. Thanks for the helpful comments so far.Previous posts on this topic:
- Follow-up: Connecticut Plan B Bill goes into effect today
- Statement: Connecticut Bishops On Plan B and Catholic Hospitals
- Breaking: Catholic Bishops in CT to allow Plan B?!
Furthermore, LifeSiteNews is trying to get to the heart of the matter regarding whether Plan B falls under the condemnation issued by the Vatican in 2000 of "morning after pills." More here.
The relevant passages from the Pontifical Academy for Life's "STATEMENT ON THE SO-CALLED "MORNING-AFTER PILL:
Stepping aside for a moment from the scientific questions (which are completely relevant), take a circumspect look at the moral principle the document asserts: in essence, everyone involved with the choosing, distribution and proscribing of medications that may harm a newly-conceived zygote are to treat their decision with the utmost carefulness and respect for human life.
3. It is clear, therefore, that the proven "anti-implantation" action of the morning-after pill is really nothing other than a chemically induced abortion. It is neither intellectually consistent nor scientifically justifiable to say that we are not dealing with the same thing.
Moreover, it seems sufficiently clear that those who ask for or offer this pill are seeking the direct termination of a possible pregnancy already in progress, just as in the case of abortion. Pregnancy, in fact, begins with fertilization and not with the implantation of the blastocyst in the uterine wall, which is what is being implicitly suggested.
4. Consequently, from the ethical standpoint the same absolute unlawfulness of abortifacient procedures also applies to distributing, prescribing and taking the morning-after pill. All who, whether sharing the intention or not, directly co-operate with this procedure are also morally responsible for it.
6. In the end, since these procedures are becoming more widespread, we strongly urge everyone who works in this sector to make a firm objection of moral conscience, which will bear courageous and practical witness to the inalienable value of human life, especially in view of the new hidden forms of aggression against the weakest and most defenceless individuals, as is the case with a human embryo.
It's distressing that the CCC (or other competent bodies) do not seem willing to defend their claims that the proscribed medication is in fact proven to be non-abortifacient. And if they don't have solid science to back up their claim, they shouldn't be allowing the medication to be distributed without an ovulation test. That much, at least, can be deduced from an informed reading of the principles outlined in the Vatican document.
Update 2: From what I've read and some consultation, it seems fairly certain that Plan B and the "morning after pills" are extremely similar, if not identical treatments. The emergency contraception website at Princeton, for instance, says there is "no difference." While it tries to claim later that emergency contraception pills are not "abortion pills", if you read further, the same website admits that these "abortion pills" in fact "may also prevent implantation of a fertilized egg" (= abortion).
Of this much, at least, I am fairly confident: the CCC spokesperson doesn't have his facts straight regarding the difference between Plan B and morning after pills. If he is privy to scienctific research that is not generally available it would be best that he provide some medical citations.
If anyone has a citation to the contrary of what I just cited feel free to email me (ideally) or for short-hand post a link in the comments box.
Update 3: Diogenes at CWNews takes a more harsh view of Bp. Lor's statement. See why here.
Update 4: Jeff Millerat CurtJester adds his thoughts on the latest, and Matt Bowman has a very good contribution over at Constitutionally Correct:
The position of CHA is well known and seriously flawed. It basically presents “emergency contraception” as permissible even after a positive ovulation test. To get there it shamelessly adopts the definition of pregnancy at implantation, and broadly justifies acts that prevent “pregnancy.”
The new policy for Catholic hospitals in Connecticut will be to dispense Plan B regardless of whether its pre-fertilization effects are negated and its post-fertilization death-dealing effect is the only remaining mechanism. Their spokesman and the sources they rely on seem to adopt the very pro-death word games that are designed to cheapen the lives of human embryos. This situation is becoming more troubling as it unfolds.