Monday, December 10, 2007

The Four Catholic Bishops in Connecticut Approve "Morning After" Abortifacient Pill Based on Erroneous Ethical Reasoning

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Judie Brown

It is not possible to anesthetize the conscience, for example, when it comes to molecules whose aim is to stop an embryo implanting or to cut short someone's life . . . Pharmacists must seek to raise people's awareness so that all human beings are protected from conception to natural death, and so that medicines truly play a therapeutic role . . . I invite your federation [of pharmacists] to consider conscientious objection which is a right that must be recognized 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 . . .

(Pope Benedict XVI, Address to Catholic Pharmacists, October 29, 2007; see related article)

Life Site reported on 28 September 2007:
Connecticut Bishops Allow Plan B in Catholic Hospitals for Rape - Catholic Medical Association Opposed

Vatican stated in 2000 "the absolute unlawfulness of abortifacient procedures also applies to distributing, prescribing and taking the morning-after pill"

By John-Henry Westen

HARTFORD, September 28, 2007 ( - A statement issued by the Connecticut Catholic Bishops yesterday, which is posted on the Catholic Conference's web page [full text] , notes that the Bishops have approved the administration of the morning after pill Plan B for rape victims at the four Catholic hospitals in the state. While the Bishops claim to be in accord with Church teaching on the matter, the only statement from the Vatican on the measure opposed it since the pill can cause abortions.

"In accordance with Catholic moral teaching, these hospitals provide emergency contraception after appropriate testing," says the letter from the Bishops. "Catholic moral teaching is adamantly opposed to abortion, but not to emergency contraception for victims of rape," it adds.

However, the Vatican statement on the morning after pill, issued in 2000, condemns its use outright. The Pontifical Academy for Life states that "the 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." (see the full Vatican statement . . .).

The morning after pill works in three ways: To slow motility of the sperm, to inhibit ovulation and to prevent implantation of the embryo. The Vatican document stated: "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."

The bishops of Connecticut suggest that the administration of a pregnancy test prior to administration of Plan B puts sufficient doubt into the question of whether or not the abortifacient effect of the pill will be engaged. "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," says the Bishops' letter. "To administer Plan B pills without an ovulation test is not an intrinsically evil act."

Scientifically however the Bishops are on very weak ground. The Catholic Medical Association, the largest professional organization of Catholic physicians in the U.S., is resolutely opposed to the use of the abortifacient morning after pill in Catholic Hospitals even in cases of rape because of its potential to cause abortions. Medical evidence demonstrates that the pregnancy tests used cannot accurately detect a pregnancy at fertilization but only after implantation which takes more than a week after the new life is formed.

At its Annual Meeting in 2003, the Catholic Medical Association passed a resolution correcting theologians who have erroneously suggested that it would be legitimate for Catholic hospitals to provide "emergency contraception" to rape victims. Echoing the Vatican, the resolution stated that that the morning after pill "cannot be ethically employed by a Catholic physician or administered in a Catholic Hospital in cases of rape".

The Connecticut bishops are not the only ones who have approved the use of the morning after pill in Catholic hospitals for rape victims. has learned that some Catholic hospitals in Wisconsin, Massachusetts, Colorado, New York, California and Washington also offer so-called 'emergency contraception' to some rape victims with the approval of local Catholic bishops.

The bishops are basing their decisions on an interpretation of the US Conference of Catholic Bishops document: Ethical and Religious Directives (E.R.D.) for Catholic Health Care Services which states at no. 36 with regard to a woman who has 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 the process by which spermatozoa in the ampullary portion of a uterine tube become capable of going through the acrosome reaction and fertilizing an oocyte." However, the document adds: "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." (see the document).

However, even if such tests could accurately determine that ovulation has not yet occurred another difficulty exists. A study by Dr. Chris Kahlenborn in 2003 found that the pill only works to halt ovulation half the time. Thus fertilization may occur even after the pill is administered, and an abortion would result since in addition to stopping ovulation the pills act to weaken the lining of the uterus making implantation unsustainable. See Dr. Kahlenborn's study.

Speaking with earlier this year, about the problem of bishops permitting the morning after pill in Catholic hospitals in cases of rape, Dr. Kahlenborn said bluntly, "The bishops who approve this are approving potential abortions."

See the full Connecticut Bishops' statement.

To express concerns to the Vatican:

Pontifical Academy for Life:

To email the Congregation for the Doctrine of Faith:
Cardinal William Levada

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See a follow-up article by the same author: Point Man for Connecticut Bishops on Plan B 'Emergency Contraception' Totally Confused on Issue.

The bishops’ names are:
Bishop Paul Chomnycki, O.S.B.M.

Bishop William E. Lori

Bishop Michael R. Cote

Bishop Henry J. Mansell (Chairman of the Connecticut Catholic Conference)
On the CUF Blog (Catholics United for the Faith) President Emeritus James Likoudis wrote:
When CUF posted the Statement of the National Catholic Bioethics Center (NCBC) on its website, it was as a news item of interest to readers already concerned with the difficult subject of “emergency contraception” and the growing effort by state legislatures to force the Church to conform to secularist values. I myself did not view the posting as constituting CUF’s endorsement or outright agreement with the CT bishops’ decision since it was abundantly clear that here was a puzzling incident of bishops not only reversing their previous moral stance but possibly changing it once again when more “scientific evidence” became available.

. . . Speaking for myself, I personally think the CT Bishops erred on a serious moral matter. It is their original decision that seems to me to express the authentic Catholic position.
Likoudis then urged restraint of the urge of laymen and lay organizations to "denounce bishops". Restraint and proper respect are fine, but in a case of murder being sanctioned, we ought to scream bloody murder. Cardinal Newman has written about how so many of the bishops caved during the 4th century Arian crisis, and how it was oftentimes (and perhaps even primarily) the laymen who upheld orthodoxy. In this case, it appears that the Vatican agrees with the lay critics of the bishops, and so we are simply appealing to the magisterium. He did add, however:
It is distressing that the CT Bishops’ reversal of moral teaching was in response to the pressures of an immoral law of the State that should have been outrightly opposed and resisted.
Judie Brown, president of American Life League, has issued a strong condemnation:
The actions of the Connecticut Catholic Conference are an outrage and a crime . . . It’s bad enough to allow so-called emergency contraception in Catholic hospitals, but to claim that the Church has never officially ruled on such matters is completely untrue . . . The Connecticut Catholic Conference is acting recklessly by allowing the use of this abortifacient . . .

(see related article) and another on "emergency contraception")
The Catholic Media Coalition (CMC) has urged a reversal.
Fr. Thomas J. Euteneuer, president of Human Life International, has also weighed in against the Connecticut decision. Here are his opening words:
On September 27th the Connecticut bishops issued an unfortunate statement allowing the Plan B abortion-causing drug to be used in cases of rape in Catholic hospitals. I have written respectfully and urgently to the Connecticut Catholic Conference (CCC) and to each bishop individually to ask them to withdraw this potentially precedent-setting statement, and I pray that they do so. I am extremely concerned that this statement will begin to have a domino effect on other Catholic hospitals and healthcare institutions, and I write to you today to ask your ongoing partnership in this concern.

First, let me be clear about our obligations as Catholics. While our bishops operate in union with the Vicar of Christ, no individual bishop or conference of bishops, however wise or holy, has the charism of infallibility. Our respect for our bishops is sometimes exercised in presenting them with the clear facts that their advisors may have missed. It is an expression of our filial cooperation in their ministry. In this case, we have no option but to humbly ask them to reverse their decision due to some extremely egregious errors contained in the statement.
Later he warns:
I envision a day in which Catholic leaders may have to resign from lucrative positions in business and shut down Catholic healthcare institutions rather than cooperate in the arrogant and coercive programs of the culture of death. Actually, I think that day has already arrived.
See also the document issued by the Pontifical Academy For Life (31 October 2000): Statement on the So-Called "Morning-After Pill".

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