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    AmP Countdown: Time left to demand that Congress make health care reform pro-life: 2009-11-07 18:00:00 GMT-05:00


    Sunday, July 26, 2009

    NY hospital tried to force nurse to help with late-term abortion

    A sad preview of the future unless something is done:
    A New York City hospital is the subject of a lawsuit after allegations that it attempted to force a nurse to participate in a late-term abortion. Alliance Defense Fund attorneys filed a lawsuit yesterday against Mount Sinai Hospital on behalf of a Catholic nurse who says she told the hospital about her objections.

    Since 2004, officials at Mount Sinai Hospital knew that Cathy Cenzon-DeCarlo had deeply-felt pro-life views and would not consent to assisting in an abortion.

    That didn't stop hospital officials from threatening her with disciplinary measures if she did not honor a last-minute summons to assist in a scheduled late-term abortion.

    Despite the fact that the patient was not in crisis at the time of the surgery, the hospital insisted on her participation in the procedure on the grounds that it was an “emergency."

    Federal laws prohibit hospitals that receive federal funds from forcing employees to participate in abortion procedures under any circumstances but that apparently didn't stop Mount Sinai Hospital from asking Cenzon-DeCarlo to join in the abortion of the 22-week-old unborn child.

    ADF Legal Counsel Matt Bowman talked with LifeNews.com about the case.

    “Pro-life nurses shouldn't be forced to assist in abortions against their beliefs,” he said. “Requiring a devout, Catholic nurse to participate in a late-term abortion in order to remain employed is illegal, unethical, and violates her rights of conscience." (LifeNews) (ADF)
    If Obama doesn't follow through on his promise, we can look forward to removing the description of "illegal" from this action which remains gravely "unethical" because it violates the conscience of the pro-life nurse.

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    Monday, June 29, 2009

    Cardinal O'Malley forces Caritas to make the right call

    The news broke last week, but I was traveling at the time. It appears to be good news. 

    Michael Paulson of the Boston Globe reports:
    Caritas Christi Health Care, the financially challenged Catholic hospital system founded by the Archdiocese of Boston, is abruptly ending its joint venture with a Missouri-based health insurer at the insistence of Cardinal Sean P. O'Malley, who has decided that the relationship represented too much of an entanglement between Catholic hospitals and abortion providers.

    The dramatic development, just days before the joint venture was scheduled to start providing care to low-income residents as part of the state's efforts to establish near universal health coverage here, is a vindication of sorts for a variety of very conservative Catholic critics of the cardinal, who have been arguing angrily and loudly that it would be "evil" for Caritas to partner with a health provider that covers abortion services.

    The development is also a setback for Caritas, because it represents the undoing of one of the most significant steps its new chief executive, Dr. Ralph de la Torre, had announced as part of his efforts to turn around the hospital system's finances. It was not immediately clear last night what the financial impact of the change is on Caritas, but the decision is a stark and public reminder from O'Malley to de la Torre and the general public that moral concerns will trump monetary concerns at the Catholic hospitals.
    I don't quite agree with the tone of the above treatment. I am somewhat aware of the criticisms Cardinal O'Malley has been receiving during this process, but just because some people have been too vigorous in their approach does not mean that the fundamental motivation of others is not a good one. It's in fact a Catholic one: we won't allow our hospitals to become accessories to abortions. Period.

    AmP has been following the Caritas Christi situation for some time. First on March 12: "What is Caritas Christi up to?" and "An update on Caritas-Centene". Then on May 26: "Will the Boston Archdiocese really allow abortion referrals?" And finally on June 9: "Boston Archdiocese-affiliate health-care to offer abortion coverage" (when it looked like the deal would go through). On June 11th there was a report that Caritas was trying to work out a deal that would address the stated concerns about abortion referrals. Phil Lawler also wrote an in-depth history of the situation which is very helpful if you want more details.

    At this point, I think two things are necessary: First, support of Cardinal O'Malley, who I believe is trying his best to do the right thing in a difficult situation. Second, vigilance about the details of the new plan, many of which are given in Paulson's full article treatment in the Boston Globe. There is some concern that Catholic involvement with abortions will still find its way in to the new operating procedures. The case of Caritas Christi is, sadly, the first instance of what is sure to become a more widespread problem as the health care industry reorganizes, often times collapsing Catholic and secular hospitals in with one another.

    If anyone has incisive analysis of the current state of affairs, as well as action items and ideas for how the Catholic community can assist in working out an acceptable solution, I'll be happy to take a look and perhaps present them on AmP.

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    Tuesday, June 09, 2009

    Boston Archdiocese-affiliate health-care to offer abortion coverage

    Sad. Embarrassing. Wrong:
    Caritas Christi, the health-care system affiliated with the Archdiocese of Boston, has entered into a partnership that will provide coverage for abortion, sterilization, and contraception under the terms of a state government contract. Celticare Health Plan-- a new offering, which describes itself as “a partnership between Celtic Group, a subsidiary of Centene Corporation, and Caritas Christi Health Care”-- is now offering several options for health-care coverage, with all of the available plans advertising abortion coverage. (Catholic Culture brief)
    I blogged about this possibility about a couple weeks ago.

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    Tuesday, May 26, 2009

    Will the Boston Archdiocese really allow abortion referrals?

    Back in March:
    After more than a week of controversy, state regulators voted yesterday to accept a bid by a Massachusetts Catholic hospital chain and a secular health organization to provide health insurance to thousands of low-income residents.

    The Connector Authority board, which oversees the Commonwealth Care program, voted unanimously in favor of the joint venture proposed by Centene Corp., a St. Louis-based health organization, and Caritas Christi Health Care Network.

    The vote followed several closed-door sessions in which officials from Centene and Caritas, the minority partner in the joint venture, assured regulators that women will have "ready access" to family planning and reproductive services, an issue that sparked concerns from abortion foes and reproductive rights activists. (Boston Globe)
    Despite attention from the American Life League and Catholic Action League, as of last week - no change:
    Brian Delaney, communications director for CeltiCare, owned by Centene, confirmed that the joint venture will be operational by July 1 and that it "will meet all the state’s requirements under the Commonwealth Care program, including providing family planning services as appropriate.”

    ... “It is clear that the Caritas/Centene partnership is proceeding with all deliberate speed towards the July 1st start-up date of the Commonwealth Care contract," he said.

    "Catholics need to keep the pressure up on the Archdiocese to cancel the contract," he added. (LifeNews)
    Here is a good way to start:
    ACTION: Contact Caritas Christi and urge it not to begin doing abortions or referring for them. Caritas Christi Health Care, 736 Cambridge Street, Boston, MA 02135, (p) 617-789-2500, CCR.Webmaster@CaritasChristi.org
    Catholic institutions simply cannot be complicit with abortion.

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    Monday, April 06, 2009

    Action Item: Conscience Clause Legislation

    Unfortunately my current volume of extra-blogging obligations prevents me from giving as much attention to this issue as it deserves. Simply put: it's important. Please spread awareness and take action!

    The USCCB is asking Catholic blogs and websites to post these Web Ads:

    Conscience Protection

    Conscience Protection

    Catholic Senators are being unreliable when it comes to protecting consciences in the U.S.:

    Senator Coburn proposed an amendment to the budget bill that would keep the conscience clause in place and give health care workers protection from having to perform professional duties that violate their religious freedom, like abortions.

    Only 9 Catholic Senators Support - 16 Reject

    Finally, so we understand the philosophical/political dimension of the legislation, see Rich Garnett at Public Discourse: "How the No-Establishment Rule Does (and Does Not) Protect the Freedom of Conscience".

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    Friday, March 20, 2009

    Jesuit Catholic U. drops abortion referral service

    A piece of happy news from Valerie Schmalz at OSV:
    "Following OSV's report in December that the Jesuit University of San Francisco's student health clinic was providing abortion and contraception referrals for students, USF has crafted a new protocol for the clinic that is consonant with the Church's stance on life issues. The USF student clinic staff will now refer students to First Resort, a crisis pregnancy organization; the Gabriel Project, a pregnancy support organization run by the university's St. Ignatius Parish; and Catholic Charities counseling facilities."
    Just a reminder that abuses we bring attention to and take action on ... can be and do get resolved.

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    Tuesday, March 17, 2009

    Video: Cardinal George on Keeping Conscience Protections

    From the US Bishops' Pro-Life Secretariat:
    Cardinal Francis George is urging Catholics in the United States to tell the Obama Administration to retain Health and Human Services regulations governing conscience protections for health care workers.

    This is vital to keep the government from "moving our country from democracy to despotism," said Cardinal George, President of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. He delivered the message via video available on the Web here (contains lots of information) and on YouTube:

    update: here's an easy way to send-in your official comment.

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    Thursday, March 12, 2009

    An update on Caritas-Centene

    From White Coat Notes, the Boston Globe's medical blog:
    State regulators today voted to accept a controversial bid by a Massachusetts Catholic hospital chain and a secular health organization to provide health insurance to low income residents.

    ... The vote came after Caritas-Centene assured the panel that women will have "ready access" to timely family planning services, with no primary care physician referral required. They also promised creation of a toll-free 800 customer service number that will provide women information about where they can get family planning and reproductive services -- and, in an emergency, will provide transporation to the nearest approriate facility.

    Board officials promised close monitoring to make sure the promises are kept.
    Full backstory posted this morning. Cardinal Sean explains himself on his blog (I love saying that):

    There has been a significant amount of public dialogue concerning my statement yesterday (as copied below) about the proposed arrangement involving Caritas Christi Health Care with the Commonwealth Care Program.

    To be perfectly clear, Caritas Christi will never do anything to promote abortions, to direct any patients to providers of abortion or in any way to participate in actions that are contrary to Catholic moral teaching and anyone who suggests otherwise is doing a great disservice to the Catholic Church. We are committed to the Gospel of Life and no arrangement will be entered into unless it is completely in accord with Church teaching.

    Recognizing the complexity of the proposed arrangement, I will ask the National Catholic Bioethics Center to review the arrangement and to provide me their opinion.

    There's, well, plenty of comments.

    LifeNews adds an action item:

    Contact Caritas Christi and urge it not to begin doing abortions or referring for them:

    Caritas Christi Health Care,
    736 Cambridge Street, Boston, MA 02135, (phone) 617-789-2500, CCR.Webmaster@CaritasChristi.org

    update: Catholic Culture adds:

    However, the cardinal's claim was contradicted by representatives of Commonwealth Care, who assured state officials that their program would provide "ready access" to all of the services mandated by the government program, including abortion.

    Under the Commonwealth Care system, abortions will not be performed at the Caritas Christi hospitals. But women who wish to procure abortions will be given a telephone number to call for information on where abortions are performed, and, if necessary, transportation to those sites.

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    What is Caritas Christi up to?

    This story has been simmering for awhile but I only just now had a chance to do a treatment.

    AmP reader Jeanne gives us a fantastic opening brief:
    Caritas Christi Health Network (which owns the remaining Catholic hospitals in Massachusetts) wants to partner with Centene Corp. - a St. Louis based health network - to put a bid in for government subsidized healthcare. Ostensibly, this is for the sake of allowing lower-income people greater access to healthcare.

    The catch is that if the venture were to accept government money, then they would be required by Massachusetts state law to cover abortions. (In the words of Connector Authority spokesman Dick Powers: "Health plans must provide covered services. Covered services specifically include abortion services.") On March 5, 2009, Cardinal Sean P. O'Malley released a statement, saying that, "...Caritas Christi Health Care has assured me that it will not be engaged in any procedures nor draw any benefits from any relationship which violate the Church's moral teaching as found in the Ethical and Religious Directives." And while it is true that Caritas Christi Health Care does not plan to directly offer any of the so-called "family planning services" that would be mandated by the state, they are planning on providing referrals for such services. The plan is this: Caritas would refer the patient to another facility, knowing that said facility would then direct her to physicians who will perform abortions, prescribe contraception, and so forth.

    Despite his protestations to the contrary, lot of people believe that the Cardinal is being intellectually dishonest in how he is presenting the situation and that the partnership would amount to the Catholic hospital system cooperating with a provider of abortion services. In the face of public outrage over this partnership, the Cardinal is submitting the situation to the National Catholic Bioethics Center. It will be interesting to hear their opinion of this situation.
    The Catholic Action League has been very vocal on this issue, saying in their most recent press release that Caritas Christi is "stonewalling".

    Michael Paulson of the Boston Globe did an in-depth story on March 4th, and had a symposium of moral theologians weigh-in yesterday. Together they've compiled a tome of contributions.

    Sadly, however, from my brief survey of the names chosen, there appear to be many theologians who don't think with the mind of the Church on this complex issue.

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    Friday, March 06, 2009

    Flash: FOCA may not be so far away

    I've been among those who doubted that the Freedom of Choice Act stood much of a chance being introduced into Congress. I thought the preventative actions already taken would be a serious deterrent.

    Rep. Jerrold Nadler and Sen. Barbara Boxer, however, may have other plans:
    Leading pro-life advocates have been criticized by the mainstream media for organizing an active opposition to the radical Freedom of Choice Act because the bill has yet to be filed in Congress. However, a leading pro-abortion Congressman calls FOCA a top priority and says the bill is coming soon.
    A spokesman for Rep. Jerrold Nadler, a New York Democrat who is chairman of a House Judiciary subcommittee that could consider the bill, says the bill is forthcoming.
    FOCA "is among the congressman's priorities. We expect to reintroduce it sooner rather than later," Ilan Kayatsky told the St. Louis Post Dispatch {full article here}.
    "We expect it to be more or less the same bill with some minor tweaks," Kayatsky said. He indicated he expects pro-abortion Sen. Barbara Boxer to introduce a companion bill shortly. (LifeNews)
    I hate last-minute Friday news bombs.

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    Friday, February 27, 2009

    Breaking: Obama moving to overturn conscience regulations

    LifeNews:

    The White House quietly announced on Friday that President Barack Obama is starting the process of overturning protections President Bush put in place to make sure medical staff and centers are not forced to do abortions. The move is the latest that will add to Obama's growing pro-abortion record.

    Existing federal laws already make it so doctors and hospitals are not required to perform abortions. Because those laws aren't always followed, the Bush administration added additional protections.

    Now, the Obama administration is Starting the process to remove them.
    LA Times: 'Conscience' rule on abortions may be overturned

    update: NARAL is happy. That's never a good thing for the unborn children of America.

    Ph/t: AmP reader Colleen.

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    Wednesday, January 28, 2009

    Worse than FOCA: Prevention First Act

    This act, introduced three weeks ago, is more dangerous than FOCA because it is already in Congress.

    {updated} Select things the Prevention First Act (PFA) will do:

    • Make Title X (family planning) a permanent program and fund it at $700 million or more.
    • Mandate that health insurance programs that cover prescriptions must cover abortifacient contraceptives.
    • Create a government program to push abortifacient "Emergency Contraception."
    • Take all federal money away from any hospital that refuses to administer the abortifacient Emergency Contraception to victims of rape.
    • Create additional massive government funding for Planned Parenthood style sex education programs (abstinence-only programs are specifically excluded from funding).
      Permanently include family planning services as part of the Medicaid program.

    "All of these programs will result in more babies being killed and more taxpayer money going to the largest abortion chain in the nation ? Planned Parenthood." - {Source.}

    American Life League has a comprehensive overview of what this bill will bring about should it pass.

    LifeNews also covered this story. They recommend contacting members of the U.S. Senate.

    Ph/t: AmP Reader Fr. William.

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    Monday, November 24, 2008

    Taking Catholics for Choice to the Woodshed

    Fr. Z does it for me.

    The nerve of their president Jon O'Brien:
    The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops and the Catholic Health Association may be behind the new rule, but their support does not reflect the fullness of Catholic teaching and the views of Catholics.
    Fr. Z called what Jon O'Brien wrote "evil."

    I'd have to agree:
    One hopes that the bishops are not suggesting that the only well-formed conscience is one that is in lockstep with their own interpretation of Catholic teaching. That would, in fact, be the antithesis of a well-formed conscience.
    Actually, the catechism says:
    no. 1794 - A good and pure conscience is enlightened by true faith.
    In other words, the phrase "well-formed conscience" is an objective not a subjective description.

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    TX Bishop apologizes for not overseeing hospital properly

    I called attention to this story back in July.

    I have a great deal of respect for how the bishops have handled these revelations:

    In yet another sign of revival in the Catholic Church in America, a US bishop has taken the rare step of publicly repenting for failing to ensure respect for life at Catholic hospitals under his jurisdiction.

    An anonymous report issued last year revealed that tubal ligations were being performed for contraceptive purposes at Texas Catholic hospitals. The report cited hospital inpatient discharge data that was reported to the Texas Health Care Information Collection Center for Health Statistics, as evidence for the claim.

    Bishop Alvaro Corrada, SJ, initiated an investigation following the report and has today issued a public admission of guilt after finding that Catholic hospitals were in fact illicitly carrying out sterilizations. (LifeSiteNews)

    And not just apologizing. The bishops are pursing a comprehensive response to the reported abuses.

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    Friday, November 21, 2008

    The Daschle Glass if Half Empty

    Michael Sean Winters, writing for the America blog, has tried to claim that the appointment of Tom Daschle as Secretary of Health and Human Services is a "step in the right direction." As he puts it: "Call me an optimist ... The Daschle glass is half-full, not half-empty."

    Well, call me a realist, but I think the Daschle Glass is half-empty, and I'll explain why.

    From the outset, Winters misses the point:
    The Church in America today is burdened by a group of conservative prelates and laity all of whom seem to be taking their marching orders from the Republican National Committee
    I've said it dozens of times: when Catholic bishops speak out on behalf of the unborn they are doing so because abortion is a human rights issue, not a partisan talking-point. Catholic bishops would rejoice to see the pro-life cause energetically embraced by democrats and republicans alike. Winters continues:
    The Catholic press and blogosphere are the only outlets that view the Daschle selection through the prism of where he stands on the Freedom of Choice Act (FOCA).
    Well no kidding, that's because the Catholic press and blogosphere actually believe abortion is wrong, and actually believe that Obama might very well try to fulfil one of the promises he made. Catholic press and blogs would be abandoning their commitment to a Catholic perspective on modern social issues if they mirrored the liberal orthodoxy of the age which says abortion is here to stay.

    I don't have time to chase down all of Winters' claims about Daschle's supposed teppidness when it comes to abortion. I'll grant that Daschle is not the most extreme supporter of abortion rights ... but he still supports them. Daschle fundraises for NARAL, for pete's sake! Especially around election time. A 50% rating from NARAL doesn't mean he's 50% pro-life, it means Daschle is only half as radically, unequivocally, energetically pro-abortion as they demand.

    Winters also takes a cheap shot, quoting Joe Scheidler of the Pro-Life Action League on crisis pregnancies, and then saying this in response:
    Those are the words of a man who has never spoken with a poor woman facing a crisis pregnancy and who has evidently never read a papal encyclical on social justice. These voices can be counted upon to denounce the Daschle appointment.
    Um... excuse me? How does Winters know that? Does a lack of personal experience mean Scheidler can't make prudential decisons? How dare Winters (or Daschle, for that matter) attempt to legislate for things they have not personally experienced?! Oh that's right, all politicians legislate about things they haven't personally experienced. Winter's comment isn't even an argument. And I'd like to see Winters point out to me that "papal encyclical on social justice" where it says abortion is the answer to any social problem. I'll be waiting.

    Winters winds down his post with claiming to have originated, or at least pre-dated, the current democrat line which says "Roe v. Wade is here to stay, so the only way to reduce abortions is to make women not want them." Ironically, Winters resumes "Call me an optimist..."

    I'm sorry, but what Winters just said sounds incredibly pessimistic. And it's a very sad day indeed when Catholics feel encouraged by the appointment of pro-abortion Catholic politicians to the highest healthcare office in the country, and somehow claim that the rest of us are impeding progress when we voice concern.

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    Wednesday, November 19, 2008

    Breaking: Obama picks Tom Daschle for HHS secretary

    Bad news:

    "Former Senator Majority leader Tom Daschle (D-S.D.) will be secretary of Health and Human Services in the Obama administration, with the delicate mission of shepherding a health-care bill through Congress at a time of punishing budget constraints, a senior Democratic official said.

    ... “Of all the proposals that Obama wants to enact, health care requires the most input and tough negotiations,” the official said. “No one knows the House and Senate like Tom Daschle." (Politico) (NYT) (more)

    Tom Daschle grew up Catholic, but is pro-embryonic stem cell research and NARAL claims him as one of their top supporters. In 2003, his bishop at the time (Most Rev. Robert Carlson of Saginaw, MI) told Daschle that he may no longer call himself Catholic (not the same as excommunication, mind you).

    As for the "delicate mission of shepherding a health-care bill through Congress", that mission will be made more difficult if Daschle listens to his NARAL friends who are demanding the Freedom of Choice Act be included (we oppose it).

    [photo credit: Center for American Progress]

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    Thursday, November 13, 2008

    On the end of Catholic Hospitals

    Ed Morissey at Hot Air tells us how serious the bishops are about not allowing Catholic Hospitals to be forced into performing abortions under FOCA:
    [The bishops will] shut them down and take the losses in order to prevent their use as abortion clinics. To do otherwise, the bishops stated, would be to cooperate in the evil of abortions.

    What kind of impact would that have? The Catholic Church is one of the nation’s biggest health-care providers. In 2007, they ran 557 hospitals that serviced over 83 million patients. The church also had 417 clinics that saw over seven million patients. If they shut down almost a thousand hospitals and clinics nationwide, the US would not just lose a significant portion of available health care, but the poor and working-class families that received the health care would have fewer options.

    Also, the Catholic Church runs this on a non-profit basis, spending vast sums of its money to ensure access for those unable to pay. That’s the kind of model that many on the Left believe should exclusively provide health care — and FOCA would spell the end of the major provider already in that model.
    Notice that point about Catholic hospitals being non-profits? And to think that a common criticism of the Catholic pro-life movement during this election was that, somehow, we aren't serious about providing concrete medical care and assistance to the poor. Simply unbelievable.

    So how serious are democrats and Obama about FOCA? Serious enough to push the Catholic Church in the US out of the health care industry?

    Let's hope drawing these clear lines in the sand will give them pause. We're not blinking first.

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    Tuesday, September 30, 2008

    UK v. Catholic Schools

    UK Times:
    A Roman Catholic school is refusing to allow 12 and 13-year-old girls to be immunised against cervical cancer on its premises.

    The move, by St Monica’s High School in Prestwich, was condemned as irresponsible by the Department for Health, which began its programme to immunise girls against the sexually-transmitted human papillomavirus (HPV) this month.

    In a letter to parents, the school says that the vaccine has been proved neither safe nor effective, that girls who took part in a pilot programme last year suffered side-effects and that the vaccine could “interfere with the body’s natural defences”. It concluded: “We do not believe that school is the right place for the three injections to be administered.”
    Ph/t: William Newton.

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    Monday, September 01, 2008

    Honesty: Researchers Question Wide Use of HPV Vaccines

    I (and others) have been raising red flags about Gardasil since early 2007, today the New York Times notices:
    Two vaccines against cervical cancer [Gardasil by Merck Sharp & Dohme and Cervarix by GlaxoSmithKline] are being widely used without sufficient evidence about whether they are worth their high cost or even whether they will effectively stop women from getting the disease, two articles in this week’s New England Journal of Medicine conclude.

    ...“Despite great expectations and promising results of clinical trials, we still lack sufficient evidence of an effective vaccine against cervical cancer,” Dr. Charlotte J. Haug, editor of The Journal of the Norwegian Medical Association, wrote in an editorial in Thursday’s issue of The New England Journal. “With so many essential questions still unanswered, there is good reason to be cautious.”
    Hopefully it is more evident now why I disagred with making Gardasil and Cervarix mandatory.

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    Thursday, August 21, 2008

    "Bush plan would blunt state birth control law"

    Pro-abortion/contraception groups are hopping mad about it, too:

    A proposed Bush administration regulation on contraception and abortion would stop California from enforcing a state law that requires Catholic hospitals and charities to provide birth control coverage for thousands of female employees, state Attorney General Jerry Brown and family-planning advocates said Wednesday. (San Francisco Chronicle)

    Sadly, I think they are going about this the wrong way:

    The U.S. Health and Human Services Department regulation, still in draft form, would define abortion as including certain methods of contraception and would prohibit states and other recipients of federal funds from penalizing health care workers who refused to provide those services because of religious or moral beliefs.

    Why not simply include contraception under the penumbra of treatments that health care workers are allowed to refuse because of religious or moral beliefs? The evidence supporting the claim that contraceptives are also abortifacients has been legitimately challenged.

    In other words, sooner or later, if not already, contraceptives will not have abortifacient side effects. Then where will we be when Catholic individuals and organizations wish to refuse distributing them?
    update: Dawn Eden has brought it to my attention that the San Francisco Chronicle is actually (intentionally or not) playing into the pro-choice talking points, and is not giving us the straight story.
    An early draft of the regulations found its way into public circulation before it had reached my review. It contained words that lead some to conclude my intent is to deal with the subject of contraceptives, somehow defining them as abortion. Not true.

    The Bush Administration has consistently supported the unborn. However, the issue I asked to be addressed in this regulation is not abortion or contraceptives, but the legal right medical practitioners have to practice according to their conscience and patients should be able to choose a doctor who has beliefs like his or hers.

    There, doesn't that sound far more reasonable?

    Planned Parenthood has its formidable attack machine trained on Mr. Leavitt, who responds to them here:

    So, according to Ms. Gallagher’s ideology, if a person goes to medical school they lose their right of conscience. Freedom of expression and action is surrendered with the issuance of a medical degree.

    There is something I’d like to point out to Ms Gallagher and the people she represents. It is currently a violation of three separate federal laws to compel medical practitioners to perform a procedure that violates their conscience.

    ... I want to reiterate. If the Department of Health and Human Services issues a regulation on this matter, it will aim at one thing, protecting the right of conscience of those who practice medicine. From what I’ve read the last few days, there’s a serious need for it.

    Continue fighting the good fight, sir.

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    Tuesday, March 04, 2008

    "Catholic hospital to allow transgender surgery after being sued"

    CNA:

    A Catholic hospital that refused to allow its facilities to be used for breast implant surgery on a man that had undergone a sex-change operation will now allow the procedure, the California Catholic Daily reports.

    ... On February 27 the San Francisco television station CBS 5 News reported that the hospital had issued a written statement to CBS 5 that said, “We regret any confusion that may have come from this situation. We want this patient and her physician to know that they are welcome at Seton Medical Center.”

    ... The CBS 5 News station characterized the statement as a “veiled apology.” It said, “transgender Charlene Hastings has claimed moral victory against Catholics.”

    According to the California Catholic Daily, Hasting’s attorney, Chris Dolan, said that a lawsuit seeking monetary damages would proceed.

    “Like any good religious experience, first you need enlightenment and then you need atonement,” said Dolan. “And what we have here perhaps is a glimpse of enlightenment. Has it changed their heart? I don’t think so. Will it change their practice? It better.”

    What jerk comments from attorney Chris Dolan.

    update: since this story is getting alot of interest, it's especially important to note that if you read the entire original article, it concludes:
    Hastings will not undergo surgery at Seton, saying he would not be comfortable because he would feel the hospital would be “doing it under duress.”
    With that said, Canon Lawyer Ed Peters explains why the Catholic hospital has been saved having to rigorously refuse such immoral treatment here.

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    Tuesday, October 30, 2007

    Pope's "morning after pill" speech criticized - Reuters

    Reuters:

    Politicians and pharmacists in Italy responded angrily on Tuesday to an appeal by Pope Benedict for pharmacists to refuse to dispense drugs such as the "morning after pill" if they object on moral grounds.

    The Pope told an international conference on Monday that pharmacists should be guaranteed the right to conscientious objection in cases where medicines they distribute can block pregnancy, provoke abortion or assist euthanasia.

    Health Minister Livia Turco said that while the Pope had the right to urge young people to be sexually responsible, he could not tell professionals such as pharmacists what to do.

    Update: CWNews takes a look at this criticism and Jeff Miller adds some helpful notes.

    Meanwhile, in Chile, "Government Responds to Pope By Pushing Morning After Pill".

    In Colorado, "Catholic group's expansion triggers dispute over abortion, contraceptive coverage".

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    Monday, October 29, 2007

    Bioethics Essay: “The Pope Speaks to Pharmacists (and Connecticut?)”

    Welcome to this week's installment of my ongoing essay series about contemporary bioethics issues. As always, constructive feedback is welcome. Here is a list of the previous topics I've treated so far:

    This week's topic:

    “The Pope Speaks to Pharmacists (and Connecticut?)”

    [In follow-up to this post.]

    On Monday, October 29th, Pope Benedict addressed the 25th international congress of Catholic pharmacists who were in Rome to discuss the theme “the new frontiers of pharmaceutical activity.” In his speech, Pope Benedict re-affirmed three principles of Catholic medical moral theology that were recently challenged by new legislation in Connecticut:

    1) In the English VIS bulletin, the Pope is quoted as saying that pharmacists must not “collaborate directly or indirectly in supplying products that have clearly immoral purposes such as, for example, abortion or euthanasia.” Elsewhere in the French version of the text, the Pope uses the phrase “la nidation d’un embryon” – literally, “the nidation of an embryo” (emphasis added). Nidation is a technical medical term which means “Implantation of the conceptus in the endometrium.”[1] The Italian text of the sentence reads “l'annidamento di un embrione” – again, “the nidation of an embryo.” The pope’s precise word use is significant because many commonly-proscribed “contraceptives” in fact act abortifaciently by preventing the nidation of an already-conceived embryo. Plan B is one of the drugs widely-believed to act abortifaciently by preventing nidation. Hospitals in Connecticut have recently been forced to proscribe Plan B to female victims of rape without an ovulation test.

    2) Pope Benedict says that pharmacists have a “right” to conscientiously object in situations where they are asked to collaborate in supplying products which have immoral purposes such as abortion (including anti-nidation) or euthanasia. The recent legislation passed in Connecticut allows no such exemption for conscientious objection. Pharmacists must dispense the Plan B medication to all victims of rape regardless of whether they have undergone an ovulation test and so – presumably – in these cases Plan B might act abortifaciently instead of contraceptively. Here again, the Pope is reaffirming general principles of Catholic medical moral theology which have recently been directly challenged by this particular legislation.

    3) Pope Benedict states that one of the duties of pharmacists is to fulfill their obligation of educating patients about “the correct use of medications” as well as by informing them of “the ethical implications of the use of particular drugs.” While at first glance this admonition might strike one as a logical accompaniment to the Pope’s main thesis, the fact that it is explicitly stated anyway could be significant because the Connecticut legislation also violates this principle. In what seems like a paradoxical legal precedent, caregivers of women who have been raped are not allowed the full testing and council that medicine has to offer. Instead, priority of place is given to the administration of Plan B to the point that it may be administered when it could have no tangible effect (contraceptive or abortifacient). In such cases, a placebo would be as effective in alleviating psychological trauma. Furthermore, the high concentration of chemicals present in Plan B, from an objective standpoint, is a needless treatment in cases where the dosage can have no effect in preventing or terminating a pregnancy.

    Pope Benedict further demonstrates in his speech that he is aware that medical decisions made by pharmacists do not exist in a moral or cultural vacuum. He concludes that “The biomedical sciences are at the service of man… Were it otherwise they would be cold and inhuman. All scientific knowledge in the field of healthcare ... is at the service of sick human beings, considered in their entirety, who must have an active role in their cure and whose autonomy must be respected.” Pope Benedict has provided in his speech to Pharmacists a comprehensive and pastoral vision of medical health care which also explains what properly inspires Catholic medical treatments. +++

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    "Pope urges pharmacists to reject abortion pill" - Reuters

    Update 5: I've decided to make this speech the topic of this week's bioethics essay.

    Reuters:

    Pharmacists must be allowed to refuse to supply drugs that cause abortion or euthanasia, Pope Benedict said on Monday, calling on health professionals to be "conscientious objectors" against such practices.

    The Pope told a convention of Roman Catholic pharmacists that part of their job was to help protect human life from conception until natural death -- the Church teaching that rules out any deliberate termination of pregnancy or euthanasia.

    "It is not possible to anaesthetise the conscience, for example, when it comes to molecules whose aim is to stop an embryo implanting or to cut short someone's life," the Pope said.

    The so-called abortion pill, which is available in many European Union countries and has had regulatory approval in the United States since 2000, has not been authorised in Italy.

    The Vatican has criticised moves by some Italian politicians who favour the pill, which blocks the action of the hormone progesterone that is needed to sustain a pregnancy.

    The Pope told the international gathering that individual pharmacists could always choose not to prescribe such a drug.

    "I invite your federation to consider conscientious objection which is a right that must be recognised for your profession so you can avoid collaborating, directly or indirectly, in the supply of products which have clearly immoral aims, for example abortion or euthanasia," he said.

    Update: Today's VIS adds a bit more:

    In the moral sphere, the federation of pharmacists "is called to face the question of conscientious objection, which is a right that must be recognized for people exercising this profession, so as to enable them not to collaborate directly or indirectly in supplying products that have clearly immoral purposes such as, for example, abortion or euthanasia."

    It is also important, the Pope proceeded, that pharmaceutical organizations practice "solidarity in the therapeutic field so as to enable people of all social classes and all countries, especially the poorest, to have access to vital medicines and assistance."

    "The biomedical sciences are at the service of man," the Pope concluded. "Were it otherwise they would be cold and inhuman. All scientific knowledge in the field of healthcare ... is at the service of sick human beings, considered in their entirety, who must have an active role in their cure and whose autonomy must be respected."

    CWNews provides a summary of the Pope's words. CNA does so as well.

    The Pope is calling on pharmacists to conscientiously object when asked to dispense treatments that have an abortifacient or euthanistic effect.

    The Pope's speech, however, does not answer the dilemma currently being faced by pharmacists asked to dispense Plan B, because the precise question is whether or not Plan B is abortifacient in the first place. If it is, the Pope's words apply. If it isn't, they don't apply.

    This speech also provides no guidelines that might be applied to the prudential question concerning how much surety (or lack of surety) is needed to conscientiously object. The fact that pharmacists' jobs as well as their moral integrity is at stake makes me wish for a bit more clarity.

    Update 2: I'm specifically pointing out that this speech by the Pope does not seem to directly apply to recent events in CT. The press has decided to link the two events in naming the "abortion pill" as the type of treatment the Pope is speaking about, while actually, the Pope is simply stating a general principle that then must be prudentially applied in specific cases. To wit: if Plan B is an "abortion pill" then clearly the Pope's words apply. If Plan B is not an "abortion pill", than just as clearly the Pope's words do not apply.

    Update 3: The Associated Press has picked up on the story, and it seems to be getting more traction in general.

    (Of course, it would be nice to have access to the full text of the Pope's speech. Again, Reuters/AP have their coverage out before the Catholic reporting agencies. I'm not trying to lay any blame here, but it would be nice if the universal Church had access to its own documents before the secular presses tell us - in their own way - what was said.)

    Update 4: Zenit has posted its coverage and adds a helpful line (underlining mine):
    [Pope Benedict] recalled [the pharmacist's] role in educating patients "in the correct use of medications" and in informing them of "the ethical implications of the use of particular drugs."
    A law that prohibits pharmacists from informing their patients about the ethical implications of certain drugs would seem to violate what Pope Benedict is claiming to be part of the pharmacists' role.

    LifeSiteNews has coverage of the Pope's speech, which is now available in French and Italian on the Vatican Website.

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    Tuesday, October 23, 2007

    Fr. Fehlner speaks out on Plan B ... and takes it an extra step

    LifeSiteNews reports:

    In what is likely the most significant contribution to date in the debate over the use of the so-called "emergency contraception" pills at Catholic hospitals, renowned theologian Fr. Peter Damian Fehlner has written on the subject. The Doctor of Sacred Theology who has been teaching theology in Franciscan universities and seminaries in the US and Italy for forty years, has questioned the basis on which the whole issue is based - namely whether it is permitted for Catholics to administer Plan B even if it acted as a contraceptive rather than causing abortions.

    Fr. Fehlner, who was the North American Superior for the Franciscan Friars of the Immaculate in the United States from 1996 to 2002, dismissed outright the use of Plan B at Catholic hospitals where there is any doubt as to it possibility of causing an abortion. "The fact is, if we have any doubt about whether a given action would directly risk someone's life, entail a violation of justice or threaten the salvation of a soul, we may not act on the basis of a scientific probability," he writes. "That means even if the pill in Plan B is only 'dubiously' abortive, we simply may not use it at all."

    The same point in the debate was made by the Catholic Medical Association and by pro-life groups which have been involved in the debate. However, Catholic bioethicists working for hospitals have advised bishops that it is good enough to have "moral certainty" rather than absolute certainty that the pills will not cause an abortion.

    My only response to this valid point is that currently there is no way to definitively prove that Plan B never acts abortifaciently.

    As I read the current medical findings, the "doubt" of a person proscribing Plan B in cases of rape treatment amounts to something like this:
    "I know there were reports many years ago which claim that this treatment could possibly harm a human life. However, recent medical evidence seems to deny these earlier claims."
    The prudential question is then whether or not this represents sufficient doubt to make it morally imperative that one choose against treatment. The recently-passed Connecticut Legislation deprives individuals (both doctors and patients) the freedom to make this prudential decision.

    Fr. Fehlner, however, takes his argument against Plan B one step further:

    However, beyond the question of the abortifacient effects of the pills, Fr. Fehlner - a familiar name to those who watch EWTN, points out that the Church teaches that contraception is intrinsically evil and thus is not permissible even in cases of rape."

    Prevention of procreation is intrinsically evil prior to and independently of any good end which might be achieved thereby, such as avoiding further violence at the hands of a rapist, explains Fr. Fehlner. "The woman may certainly resist and should resist to the limit permitted by divine law any sexual assault. But she may not do this by using a means which is intrinsically evil, in this case considering the conception of a child an act of violence justifying the use of contraception."

    The stance of Fr. Fehlner calls into question not only the decision of the Connecticut Bishops, but also that of the Ethical and Religious Directives for Catholic Health Care Services put out by the US Conference of Catholic Bishops.

    The document permits contraception in cases of rape. It says specifically that in cases of women who have been raped: "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."

    Nonetheless, Fr. Fehlner is standing on firm ground since several Popes have also taught that contraception is "intrinsically evil" and thus impermissible regardless of circumstances.

    This is a more serious claim. And I think if Plan B stands or falls, it won't stand or fall on this particular issue.

    Let me explain: while Fr. Fehlner is correct in saying that contraception is "intrinsically evil" and hence never to be done, what is in fact "intrinsically evil" about contraception is primarily that it destroys the connection between the unitive and procreative dimensions of marital intercourse, as is taught in Humanae Vitae #12.

    However, in cases of rape, there is no unitive dimension for contraception to separate from the procreative. Indeed, rape is a wilful and violent perversion of what should be a unitive act. Part of its horror is that it is so clearly a violation and a "taking" of something which should be freely given and sacramentally confirmed.

    Therefore, individual Church conferences and directives have taught that a victim of rape may take non-abortifacient contraceptives to prevent the further violence of the attacker's sperm upon her body (in this case, ovum). A primary example of this teaching is present in #36 of the USCCB's ERDs.

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    Friday, October 19, 2007

    Update: Exemption included in new Pennsylvania law on Plan B *for now*

    Good reporting from the Philadelphia Inquirer:

    Hospitals in Pennsylvania must provide women who have been raped or sexually assaulted with emergency contraception, according to state regulations approved yesterday.

    The rules, adopted by the Independent Regulatory Review Commission, are the first statewide for how hospitals must deal with emergency contraception, long a touchy subject in Pennsylvania and other states.

    But supporters of emergency contraception said yesterday that the regulations gave hospitals an easy out by allowing them to apply for an exemption due to religious or moral objections. "We certainly think more work needs to be done to make sure that every victim of rape is given the complete care that she should get as a matter of course," said Larry Frankel, legislative director for the American Civil Liberties Union in Pennsylvania. "It should not matter which hospital she goes to, because she doesn't get to choose that. There are better ways of accommodating those with religious objections."

    A state law that would prohibit such exemptions is pending.

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    Tuesday, October 16, 2007

    The state of Plan B and the CT bishop’s decision

    This post will provide two services:

    • As promised, it will present recent medical findings which make a compelling argument that Plan B does not, in fact, act abortifaciently
    • Additionally, it will cite examples of a growing consensus among reasonable commentators that the recent decision of the Connecticut bishops was still not in the best interests of Catholic hospitals in the U.S.

    Before I continue I must make this very clear: I am not claiming definitive knowledge about what I discuss. I am in the process of coming to decisions about the moral issues involved here, and I present below my current position on the questions - albeit a position that I have been researching and thinking through at some length. The main purpose of this post is to keep this debate in the public eye and not rest until we are satisfied with the conclusions that have been reached. That said....

    First, the medical findings:

    I have been corresponding with a practicing family physician who has reviewed the medical literature and concluded that levo-norgestrel as dosed in Plan B is probably not abortifacient, granted that it is very hard in this case to prove a negative. However, what is required here is moral certainty, not absolute certainty. There is the possibility, as yet undiscovered, that Plan B could act against an already-conceived human being. I think one of the problems in this debate is that previous reports, now contradicted, did claim to detect an abortifacient side-effect to Plan B in some cases. If those reports were in fact false, and had never been issued, we would be in a very different frame of mind when viewing this situation now.

    First, some summarized background on the medical situation (and several facts you might not necessarily take into consideration immediately without prompting):

    • A pre-implantation embryo is invisible, which means absolute moral certainty regardings its presence and survival is difficult to obtain
    • While most oral contraceptives, when taken regularly, do in fact reduce the endometrial lining (typically from 5mm to even less than 2mm), Plan B apparently does not have enough time to begin reducing the lining of the endometrium. And since it is only administered once, nor does it have a chance to reduce the endometrial lining after implantation.
    • There is also increasing evidence that Plan B operates primarily by preventing ovulation
    • Furthermore, its secondary effect of thickening cervical mucus and altering uterine pH levels are also demonstrable
    • One of the frequently-cited sources for the claim that Plan B acts abortifaciently has since been shown to have relied on unscientific methods for determining its findings
    • Often people claim something to the effect that "clearly Plan B is an abortifacient because it says so on the label!" However, there is plausible reason to believe that this warning was placed on the label to avoid legal complications because the manufacturers did not know (and admittedly, probably did not care) whether the chemical effects the endomitrium.
    • Other research into the effects of Plan B [like this notable one] seem to ignore the fact that Plan B, while similar to the contraceptive pill, does not have the same duration of time than the contraceptive pill has to deplete the endometrium.

    Here is an extract of the physician's findings:

    Plan B, levo-norgestrel does not appear to cause abortion by damaging the endometrium. A 1974 article and extrapolation from daily oral contraceptives have contributed to this common misperception.

    Some “emergency contraception” such an IUD’s and mifepristone most likely do prevent implantation.

    There is now good evidence that Plan B does prevent ovulation in some women. Plan B, given after ovulation has occurred, may still prevent some conceptions by making the uterine environment unfriendly for spermatozoa.

    You can read the two-page summary of the medical findings (as well as a note regarding ovulation testing) in a Word Document here.

    I think this short summary reveals that a very serious study of Plan B's effects needs to be undertaken to provide the Catholic medical community with the scientific data it needs to evaluate the morality of proscribing it to rape victims.

    As a side-note, I'm also hearing reports than Plan B's effectiveness is drastically below the near-100% figures claimed by the manufacturer (as low as 60%). We can probably expect pharmaceutical companies to eventually develop a "99%" effective pill that may include endometrial thinning as one of the mechanisms for preventing sustained pregnancy. Such a pill, on principle, would have to be resisted once it is scientifically demonstrated that it in fact has the ability to act against an already-conceived human being.

    Now, a look at the the emerging consensus:

    Having analyzed the recent medical findings on Plan B, we must now take a look at the prudential nature of the CT Bishop's decision from the standpoint of legal precedent, and therefore, within a wider context. After all, this decision did not occur in a vacuum.

    As I said at the time, I believe the National Catholic Bioethics Center statement on this question is best. I will re-iterate here the conclusion that I came to in my commentary on the document:
    While the NCBC understands the judgement of the CT bishops regarding the claimed moral neutrality, as such, of allowing Plan B, the NCBC also brings up the point that because a) it is immoral to violate one's conscience and b) this law does not allow an exemption of conscience therefore .... c) this law immorally legislates that people violate their consciences.
    Simply put, a law which requires Catholic hospital employees to violate their conscience in the practice of their medical profession is unjust. Numerous commentators have agreed.

    Fr. Thomas J. Euteneuer, president of Human Life International had this to say:
    "Acts of blatant coercion of Catholic consciences are already far advanced and will only continue unless the church is willing to stand up and rebuke the arrogance of these coercive measures and carve out strict realms of conscience which are unreachable by activist courts and corrupt politicians." {Source.}
    The Catholic Media Coalition has been especially vocal about reversing the situation of compliance.

    More recent related stories:

    From the proceeding I conclude:

    • Medically speaking, it appears that prior claims regarding the abortifacient properties of Plan B, when administered once, are unable to be substantiated. Indeed, the best review of current research would seem to suggest that Plan B, when administered once, does not render the uterus inhospitable to new human life.
    • That said, legally speaking, it is unjust for the Connecticut State Legislature to enact a law that a) contravenes the consciences of Catholic employees, b) legislates restrictions upon what testing may or may not be administered to rape victims and c) withholds pertinent information from these victims at a crucial time in their decision-making process.

    As such, and in times such as these, we need to support the CT Bishops in reversing this unjust law.

    Previous AmP coverage of this story - starting the day it happened - available here.

    Constructive comments are always welcome. Emails receive greater attention and priority.

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    Thursday, October 04, 2007

    NCBC publishes statement on Connecticut Bishop's Plan B decision (with commentary)

    The National Catholic Bioethics Center has published a statement on the Connecticut Bishops' decision to allow the use of Plan B without an ovulation test in cases of rape. The NCBC is, in my opinion and many others, the foremost institution on Catholic bioethics in the United States. Their quarterly journal is widely-read and highly regarded. I have read this journal extensively for various courses and have drawn on it heavily for bioethics papers and research.

    I have always agreed with their positions and reasoning. I further take this statement to be normative for my own opinion about this matter, with the comments I include below. To fast-forward and summarize my conclusion: I believe that this document both a) is willing to admit the validity of the Bishops' prudential decision while simultaneously b) claiming that the law is essentially immoral because it requires health care workers to violate their conscience.

    That said, I would encourage anyone who has been following this story closely to read the statement in its entirety.

    I'll now excerpt the most important passages [my comments in brackets]:

    ... This is a complex moral matter and does not lend itself to brief explanation. This difficulty was rendered all the worse by inaccurate reporting and inappropriate, indeed misleading, terminology.

    These are good initial observations, which I have previously voiced.

    ... The state does allow a pregnancy test. However, this test can have nothing to do with the sexual assault. This test only identifies a conception that had taken place before the assault. It takes an embryo 5 to 7 days to make its way down the oviduct and implant in the womb.
    Correct. The pregnancy test does not provide the information needed by the health care workers or victim to make a fully-informed ethical decision.

    ... In other words, [under this new law] the physician would have to administer a drug preventing ovulation even if ovulation had already occurred. Frankly, that makes no medical sense. The state was preventing a physician from exercising his or her best medical judgment about a procedure he or she was considering.

    Yes. The new law requires that health care workers not perform a scientifically-relevant and morally-necessary simple test.

    ... A second objection centered around the fact that the medication(s) might prevent an implantation if a conception had occurred. To intend and to do such a thing is immoral. However, there was considerable debate among medical and drug experts whether or not the drugs actually had that effect. And everyone agreed there was no test even to know whether a new life had been conceived.

    In a situation of doubt, it is not prudent to forgo testing which might aid an honest decision-making process.

    Finally, attention should be drawn to the fact that the Federal Drug Administration includes the intra-uterine device as “Emergency Contraception” which is a misnomer since it is known to have an abortifacient effect.

    I had not heard this before, but I have heard that the FDA protocols often fall well-below standards acceptable to Catholics.

    Unlike the state of Colorado, for example, the state of Connecticut would not allow physicians to exercise their best medical judgment and provided no conscience protection to physicians or hospitals to refuse to administer the drug when requested.

    The crux of the matter: this law inhibits Catholic hospitals and workers to exercise good medicine and their conscience. This is a very dangerous precedent to allow in general.

    The Connecticut Catholic bishops and hospitals, under strong protest, have allowed a new protocol to be used that was developed by Catholic health care institutions. Furthermore, they made it clear that if a test were ever developed that allowed one to detect a conception after an assault, and if it became clear (as is not yet the case) that the medication(s) would work as an abortifacient, they could no longer accept the protocol. Finally, the Connecticut bishops pointed out that the Doctrine Committee of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops had studied this matter for years and could not come to the conclusion that the protocol previously allowed by the Connecticut bishops (the ovulation test protocol) would have to be used by all Catholic institutions.

    I'm not sure here that it is necessary for the Connecticut protocol to be universally-applicable to other hospitals for it to constitute the moral course of action. The logic of the document in this paragraph is not quite clear to me. Just because the USCCB did not endorse the details of the previous CT protocol does not mean that the protocol was deficient. It simply meant that their prudential decision was well-founded enough, at the very least, to avoid challenge.

    In matters that have not yet been decided definitively by the Holy See, The National Catholic Bioethics Center has refrained from adopting one or another position on a disputed question. However, in the matter of protocols for sexual assault, there is virtual unanimity that an ovulation test should be administered before giving an anovulant medication. The protocol the NCBC has supported requires the ovulation test because it provides greater medical and moral certitude that the intervention will have its desired anovulatory effect.

    I think it is clear from this paragraph that the NCBC would have preferred the CT bishops to not abandon their previous requirement of an ovulation test (i.e., language such as "virtual unanimity"), but they do not state this explicitly here. Furthermore, their reasons for thinking the law is unjust are a bit more nuanced and the grounds for their reservations are more novel than the discussion have taken into account up to this point. But let's read on....

    The NCBC objects strongly to state mandates, such as those passed by Connecticut and Massachusetts, that do not allow health care professionals and facilities to exercise their best medical judgment and which do not protect the consciences of all parties. We also object to state mandates that do not allow the victim of sexual assault to have all the information necessary for a medical intervention so that she might make an informed judgment.

    This argument also seems to tend towards resisting the law. Indeed, what they are proposing here is that one might resist the law on principle alone, because it violated the consciences of Catholic hospital doctors and employees and furthermore acts against the interest of the victim.

    However, the NCBC understands the judgment of the Connecticut bishops that the administration of a contraceptive medication in the absence of an ovulation test is not an intrinsically evil act. However, it is immoral to violate one’s conscience, including the corporate consciences of health care agencies, and the unwillingness of the state to allow an exemption of conscience makes the law unjust and onerous.

    Back-to-back "However's" tend to set off warning bells in my mind that an author is trying to have it both ways. I think the first line here about the CT decision is acknowledging, for instance, that strictly-speaking the CT bishops have not acted against any specific moral norm. However, the second line formulates a premise upon which the law could be challenged because "it is immoral to violate one's conscience" ... and as such, the law is "unjust and onerous."

    Conclusion: While the NCBC understands the judgement of the CT bishops regarding the claimed moral neutrality, as such, of allowing Plan B the NCBC is also bringing up the point that because a) it is immoral to violate one's conscience and b) this law does not allow an exemption of conscience therefore .... c) this law immorally legislates that people violate their consciences.

    This conclusion prompts the next question, which this statement does not address: is it moral to accept a law that is immoral for the proportional good of allowing Catholic hospitals to continue treating rape victims? I think that's what the discussion must now explore.

    As I've promised before in previous posts, I still hope to publish a summary of the medical details regarding Plan B by the end of this week (waiting for more input). Previous coverage of this issue can be found here:

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    Wednesday, October 03, 2007

    Papist QOTD

    Rep. Daylin Leach (D., Montgomery), the sponsor of a new bill that would require every hospital in Pennsylvania to immediately administer Plan B to all victims of rape (underlining mine):

    "Some people believe AIDS is punishment for sin ... but we would never allow doctors to withhold treatment from anyone struck with the illness. We are all free to practice our religion, but if we put ourselves in a position to provide emergency medical care, our right to practice religion ends when we start making life-changing, adverse decisions for other people." [source.]
    You're welcome to read the entire article, focusing on the similarities/dissimilarities between what it describes and what we've been covering in CT. There's much at stake here, and plenty of misinformation being spread.

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    Tuesday, October 02, 2007

    Bp. Lori issues clarification on CT Plan B decision

    And he chose to use his blog as the medium for his thoughts (underlining is mine, bolding is his):

    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.

    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.

    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:

    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:

    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.

    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.

    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.

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    Monday, October 01, 2007

    Follow-up: Connecticut Plan B Bill goes into effect today

    Update: Bp. Lori has issued a clarification on his blog. That text available here.

    Over this weekend AmP served as a nexus for Catholic debate prompted by recent news that the Connecticut Bishops Conference had reversed a long-standing policy of opposing the distribution of Plan B to rape victims in some cases and had instead decided to accept the current legislation that goes into effect today. In their statement, they claimed essentially that a lack of definitive Church teaching on the question combined with an ignorance regarding the abortifacient potential of Plan B prompted their decision.

    You can find the full AmP coverage here.

    The American Life League has since issued a very strong condemnation of the decision here.

    News has also surfaced that there are plans in the works by a lay organization to challenge the law:

    Peter Wolfgang, executive director of the Family Institute of Connecticut, said his organization hopes to challenge the new law. But the institute has not yet been able to find a plaintiff who has been harmed, such as a hospital worker who was forced to distribute the medication despite their religious convictions.

    "Someone ought to rise up and do something," he said. "This is just one of the biggest pro-abortion attacks on religious liberty that we've ever seen in the state of Connecticut." [source]

    LifeSiteNews suggests that Catholics should respectfully request a clarification from the Vatican:

    To express concerns to the Vatican:

    Pontifical Academy for Life: pav@acdlife.va

    To email the Congregation for the Doctrine of Faith:

    Cardinal William Levada E-mail: cdf@cfaith.va

    Given an average account of the situation in the media, clarification would be most welcome.

    I am also 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.

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    Friday, September 28, 2007

    Statement: Connecticut Bishops On Plan B and Catholic Hospitals

    Update: Bp. Lori has issued a clarification on his blog. That text available here.

    Released on the CCC website this morning (and issued to the general press yesterday):

    The Catholic Bishops of Connecticut, joined by the leaders of the Catholic hospitals in the State, issue the following statement regarding the administration of Plan B in Catholic hospitals to victims of rape:

    The four Catholic hospitals in the State of Connecticut remain committed to providing competent and compassionate care to victims of rape. In accordance with Catholic moral teaching, these hospitals provide emergency contraception after appropriate testing. Under the existing hospital protocols, this includes a pregnancy test and an ovulation test. Catholic moral teaching is adamantly opposed to abortion, but not to emergency contraception for victims of rape.

    This past spring the Governor signed into a law “An Act Concerning Compassionate Care for Victims of Sexual Assault,” passed by the State Legislature. It does not allow medical professionals to take into account the results of the ovulation test. 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. We continue to believe this law should be changed.

    Nonetheless, to administer Plan B pills in Catholic hospitals to victims of rape a pregnancy test to determine that the woman has not conceived is sufficient. An ovulation test will not be required. The administration of Plan B pills in this instance cannot be judged to be the commission of an abortion because of such doubt about how Plan B pills and similar drugs work and because of the current impossibility of knowing from the ovulation test whether a new life is present. To administer Plan B pills without an ovulation test is not an intrinsically evil act.

    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 Catholic Bishops of Connecticut have stated that Catholic hospitals in the State may follow protocols that do not require an ovulation test in the treatment of victims of rape. A pregnancy test approved by the United States Food and Drug Administration suffices. If it becomes clear that Plan B pills would lead to an early chemical abortion in some instances, this matter would have to be reopened. [source.]

    Complete coverage of this story is available here.

    To summarize, this statement is problematic for the following reasons:
    • The medical facts regarding the abortifacient effects of Plan B are not up for debate. If administered to a woman who is ovulating Plan B may cause an abortion. Plan B itself admits its abortifacient potential on its warning label and website.
    • The Catholic Church teaches (c.f. DV #13) that contraceptives with abortifacient potential fall under the same moral category as abortion because, when acting abortifaciently, they cause the death of a human being. The United States Bishops have similarly ruled-out the use of abortifacient pills like Plan B when the women is ovulating (c.f. Ethical & Religious Directives for Catholic Health Care Services, # 36).
    • The document claims "To administer Plan B pills without an ovulation test is not an intrinsically evil act", but for the reasons already mentioned, since Plan B can act as an abortifacient in cases where the women has ovulated, it is at least gravely irresponsible to administer chemicals that could very well bring about the death of a human being.

    Thus this statement of the CCC appears to contradict both Church teaching and USCCB directives. [update: in response to some reasonable criticism, I should clarify that I believe this statement certainly both a) takes a step back from the previous position of U.S. hospitals regarding the morality of dispensing Plan B to rape victims who have ovulated and b) charts a different course of action than the USCCB has previously suggested, in accordance with principles ennunciated by Church documents. To this extent, and no further, I believe the document is problematic and must therefore be either a) repealed or b) further explained.]

    Moreover, this decision contradicts a long-held, widespread and fiercely-defended claim by American Catholic bishops that state laws must not force Catholic hospital staffs to administer abortifacients in situations where the woman may have in fact conceived a new human life.

    The final line of this statement (which reads: "If it becomes clear that Plan B pills would lead to an early chemical abortion in some instances, this matter would have to be reopened.") seems to demand an immediate review of the Bishops' statement. The law in question will go into effect next Monday, October 1st.

    This post will be updated. CWNews has covered the story here. Full past coverage available here.

    Update: A commenter below has made what seems to be a reasonable claim that some recent scientific studies call into question the presumed abortifacient properties of Plan B, despite the literature produced by the company itself which describes an abortifacient mechanism as one method of preventing sustained pregnancy.

    However, the statement of the CCC clearly does not take this research to definitively disprove the prior medical consensus. Indeed, the statement of the CCC operates under the principal that Plan B is to be administered in a situation of legislated ignorance as to whether there is an ovum present at all (since an ovulation test - prophibited by the new law - would provide this information). It is puzzling that Catholic hospitals would allow legislation to prevent medically-relevant knowledge from being obtained. Especially because Plan B poses the greatest threat to new human life when a woman is ovulating. One must also call into question the good faith of legislation that prohibits an ovulation test. Why prohibit it unless the lawmakers want to see Plan B proscribed in all cases? Why is the CCC still complaining if Plan B has no abortifacient potential?

    Prudence would seem to dictate in a situation where human life is at stake that recent, disputed scientific research should not overrule the findings of prior investigations as well as the position of Plan B's manufacturer. Rushing a decision because of an impending legal compliance date (next Monday) compounds the likelihood of error.

    [Note: Some statements made by the CCC's spokesman are not helping matters. Saying that the bishops had an "evolution of thinking" is poor wording. The bishops had an evolution of data if Plan B turns out to not be abortifacient. The thinking concerning the immorality of proscribing abortifacients has not undergone any evolution. It is still wrong.

    Similarly, claiming that there are "many who are affiliated with the church that believe the ovulation test isn't necessary" is completely irrelevent if Plan B is not an abortifacient. This raises the question: if the new scientific findings are so definitive, why do we need so many other added reasons to accept the CCC's policy change?]

    Update 2: LifeSiteNews has posted coverage here.

    Since there is still much confusion on this topic, it might be helpful to restate some of my reservations:

    • This statement by the CCC is a reversal of precedent. Previously, Catholic hospitals in the US have overwhelmingly followed a protocol that prohibited dispensing Plan B to rape victims who have ovulated. The CCC itself followed such a protocol, until this week.
    • Up to this point, the scientific consensus which formed the basis of these protocols for Catholic hospitals said that Plan B could act as an abortifacient, in that it prevents the human embryo from implanting in the uterine wall as one of its mechanisms for avoiding sustained pregnancy and gestation.
    • Given points one and two, new scientific claims that call into question the previous consensus do not sufficiently justify a change of course. In cases where human life is at stake, prudence dictates that one not choose a course of action that may harm newly-conceived human life.
    • Clearly this statement is causing confusion among the faithful. The fact that this decision has taken so many Catholics by surprise in turn demands a response from Church leaders, if at the very least to avoid scandal among the faithful. Certainly the secular world is taking this decision as a retreat from Catholic principle and this too must be aggresively addressed.
    • Furthermore, it is a disservice to the cause of building a Catholic culture and a culture of life when decisions are made under constrained circumstances and bear the stamp of hastiness. More explanation and clarity is required in this situation, because more than the isolated issue of rape protocols is at issue. This debate also touches upon a) the right of Catholic hospitals (and employees) to operate free from legal intrusion in moral matters. b) the relationship between scientific fact finding and subsequent Church guidelines. c) the important comprehensive witness the Church provides to the world on life issues.
    • It is also probably useful to note that there seems to be an inherent contradiction in the CCC statement. Namely, if Plan B cannot act as an abortifacient, than it should not matter if the woman has ovulated. That said, why does the CCC continue to demand that the law be changed to allow an ovulation test? Either the statement is wrong to request the ovulation test be written into the law, or they are actually not confident that Plan B is non-abortifacient, and if they are not confident that Plan B is non-abortifacient, they should not be allowing it to be given to rape victims who may have ovulated.
    • If this statement by the CCC is correct, and Plan B cannot act abortifaciently, then any Catholic hospitals in the US could proscribe Plan B to all rape victims. So, either the rest of Catholic hospitals can change their policy, or the CCC must revise its statement. Similarly, if Plan B may or may not cause abortion, the correct protocol for both the CCC and the US Bishops is to disallow its use in cases where the woman has ovulated. I am here invoking the principle that when human life is at stake, the prudent choice is to err on the side of life and not choose a course of action that may result in killing an innocent life.

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    Thursday, September 27, 2007

    Breaking: Catholic Bishops in CT to allow Plan B?!

    Update 2: Bp. Lori has issued a clarification on his blog. That text available here.

    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.

    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.''

    ... and the AP has picked-up the story here:

    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 news is very disturbing if it is true. And sadly, I think it is.

    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:

    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.

    Again, what changed?

    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:

    Update 5 (10:30AM): The Connecticut Bishops have released their statement. Coverage here.

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