By John-Henry Westen
HARTFORD, May 2, 2007 (LifeSiteNews.com) – 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 (also known as ‘emergency contraception’ or its generic name Plan B) in Catholic Hospitals because of its potential to cause abortions. Nevertheless, the Catholic Bishops of both Connecticut and Wisconsin and other states have publicly admitted that their Catholic hospitals are distributing such pills to rape victims.
In testimony before the Wisconsin Senate Committee last week, the Wisconsin Catholic Conference noted that Catholic hospitals were in fact already administering the morning after pill with the use of pregnancy tests. Kim Wadas, Associate Director for Health Care at the Conference, told the committee, “Catholic hospitals in Wisconsin can and do treat victims with emergency contraception.” (see the full testimony here: https://www.wisconsin.nasccd.org/bins/wisconsin/content/pages/Advocacy/Testimony/sb129tst-EC%20treatment.pdf?_resolutionfile=ftppath )
In a joint April 25 letter signed by the Bishops of Connecticut, Archbishop of Harford Henry Mansell, and Bishop of Bridgeport William Lori, the prelates state: “It is important to repeat that Connecticut’s Catholic hospitals do provide emergency contraception.” Later in the letter they add, “We would not object to passage of a statute that would require all hospitals to adopt protocols requiring the distribution of Plan B to sexual assault victims when medically appropriate.” (see the letter at the Connecticut Catholic Conference website – Copy and paste the following link into your browser)
LifeSiteNews.com has learned that some Catholic hospitals in Massachusetts, Colorado, New York, California, Washington also offer so-called ‘emergency contraception’ to some rape victims.
The bishops of these dioceses believe they are allowing the use of emergency contraception only in cases where “appropriate testing” has determined that the woman is not pregnant and thus the pill, in halting ovulation may prevent a pregnancy occurring as a result of the rape. The science however does not definitively back up their hopes.
Medical evidence, accepted by the largest association of Catholic doctors in the United States, 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. A more stringent protocol known as the ovulation method used in some Catholic hospitals, seeks to determine if the patient has ovulated and if the test indicates she has not, the pills can be given. However, medical evidence demonstrates considerable doubt that even these tests can detect a potential fertilization in time to prevent an abortion caused by administration of the pill. (for a detailed look at this aspect of the medical evidence see here: https://www.lifesitenews.com/ldn/2007_docs/UScatholichospitalsandrapetreatment.pdf)
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 here: https://www.polycarp.org/postfertilization_polycarp_1.htm
Dr. Kathleen Raviele, the President-Elect of the Catholic Medical Association, told LifeSiteNews.com that the science is complex and “Bishops can’t be expected to understand all of the medical nuances of this.” She says however that the situation as it stands requires reassessment. “In everything we err on the side of life,” she said and thus the administration of the morning after pill in Catholic hospitals is “not justified.”
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.
The Catholic doctors said that the term ‘emergency contraception’ is “a misnomer as it does not consistently prevent fertilization”. The resolution concludes that the drug, “has the potential to prevent implantation whether given in the pre-ovulatory, ovulatory, or post-ovulatory phase, that it cannot be ethically employed by a Catholic physician or administered in a Catholic Hospital in cases of rape”.
Raviele added that the most common morning after pill currently in use, Plan B, has many negative side effects such as nausea and dizziness, and the medical literature is pointing to use of the abortion drug RU-486 as a replacement. “The next emergency contraceptive on the horizon is going to be a low dose of RU-486 since it has no side effects,” she warned.
Dr. Kahlenborn, who, with two other physicians, did the study on the effect of the morning after pill told LifeSiteNews.com, no one knows for sure how the morning after pill works. Acting in an area of life and death in uncertainty, suggests Dr. Kahlenborn, is reckless. “The bishops who approve this are approving potential abortions,” he said.
“You have the Catholic doctors telling you this and even Protestant doctors,” said Kahlenborn speaking of the Catholic Medical Association and the two Protestant and Mormon physicians who co-authored the study on the morning after pill. “Who are the bishops listening to?,” he asked rhetorically.
The Catholic Health Association is an association led by theologians which advises the bishops on such matters and it approves of the limited use of the morning after pill in Catholic hospitals for rape victims. Dr. Kahlenborn wondered about reliance on theologians for opinion on medical science rather than on medical doctors. “Basically saying your theologians are smarter than all the doctors out there,” he said.
Given the complexities involved, Dr. Kahlenborn suggested that a new Vatican intervention would be required to clear up the situation. “The only way I really think its going to change is if the Vatican does something,” he concluded.
To politely request that the Pontifical Academy for Life clarify the situation write:
See related LifeSiteNews.com coverage:
US Catholic Bishops in Wisconsin and Connecticut Drop Opposition to Abortion-Causing Emergency Contraception