Patrick Craine

Plan B, rape, and abortion: Err on the side of life

Patrick Craine
Patrick Craine

February 3, 2012 ( – Elise Hilton took a strong stand rooted in her pro-life convictions last week when she refused the drug Plan B after her mentally disabled daughter was brutally and repeatedly raped.

After we reported her story yesterday, words of sympathy came flooding in, but many also questioned Hilton’s concern that the drug could cause an abortion. Others outright attacked her and accused her of trumpeting an “anti-choice” myth at the expense of her daughter.

The use of Plan B for rape victims has become the standard practice in health facilities throughout North America – to the point where state legislatures have even forced it on Catholic hospitals. But it’s a hot-button topic within the pro-life movement, and is more complex than it may seem.

There are essentially two key issues: First, is Plan B in fact an abortifacient? And second, if it is an abortifacient, is it possible to administer the drug without the risk of deliberately causing an abortion?

Is Plan B an abortifacient?

The drug’s purported aim is to prevent pregnancy within the first few days after intercourse.  It acts firstly by preventing the fertilization of the women’s ovum by either (1) delaying or suppressing ovulation, or (2) inhibiting the transport of the sperm or the ova.

But studies have found that if fertilization has already occurred, the drug can also act by thinning the uterine lining to prevent the newly conceived zygote from implanting, and thus cause an early abortion.

The Food and Drug Administration and even Plan B’s manufacturer, Barr Pharmaceuticals, both recognize the possibility of this “anti-implantation” or “post-fertilization” effect. One 1994 study found that this effect could account for most cases where the drug “prevents” pregnancy.

Recent studies have called this abortifacient function into question, however, leading some pro-life organizations like the Catholic Health Association to dismiss it.

But even the CHA, which supports the use of Plan B for rape victims at Catholic hospitals, still admits the possibility of the abortifacient function. Dr. Ronald P. Hamel, the CHA’s Senior Director of Ethics, wrote in 2002 that “the destruction of a conceptus cannot be absolutely ruled out.” In 2010, when CHA was attempting to justify their stance in favor of the use of Plan B, Hamel still could not rule out an abortifacient effect. He wrote that “virtually all of the evidence in the scientific literature indicates Plan B has little or no post-fertilization effect.”

Furthermore, some studies continue to find evidence suggesting an anti-implantation effect, so the more recent studies are not unanimous.

Of course the wider scientific and bioethical community reject the whole debate about the drug causing an abortion, because they long ago redefined pregnancy to begin at implantation. But obviously that won’t fly for pro-lifers who believe, as the embryologists do, that life begins at conception.

The overwhelming view among those who have not bought into this redefinition is that Plan B carries at least a minimal risk of causing a chemical abortion.  Some, including the Pontifical Academy for Life, believe the risk to be far more than minimal.

Can Plan B be taken without the risk of deliberately causing an abortion?

Acknowledging this risk, some Catholic moral theologians have argued that you can avoid the abortifacient effect by simply ensuring the woman is not pregnant when she takes it. They oppose its use in general as a contraceptive, but support the drug in cases of rape, arguing that it’s morally just for the woman to repel the attacker’s semen.

So Catholic doctors have proposed two approaches to testing the victim for pregnancy.

The first involves a simple pregnancy test. But even advocates of this approach admit that all this will do is establish a pregnancy existing prior to the rape. The test only actually shows up positive a week or so after intercourse, so it wouldn’t detect a baby conceived from the rape.

The second approach seeks to determine whether the woman has ovulated or not based on an assessment of her menstrual history, or in the case of the more rigorous Peoria Protocol, also based on a urine test and blood test. If she has not ovulated then she is clearly not pregnant, the theory goes. But even with all of these tests, advocates of this approach admit the possibility of “break-through ovulation” even if the results are negative, meaning the victim could still become pregnant.

The fact that these tests can still fail to circumvent the abortifacient function would be enough for many to rule the drug out. It goes back to the classic hunter in the woods scenario. If a hunter sees something moving behind a bush he can’t shoot until he knows for sure it’s not another person.

But some Catholic theologians argue that the improbability that the drug would cause an abortion raises enough doubt to offer “moral certainty” that an abortion will not occur. They argue that the child’s death would be an unintended consequence outweighed by the broader concern for the rape victim’s psychological state.

But this argument reduces moral certainty to a weighing of probabilities. If we acknowledge even the remote possibility that the drug will “prevent pregnancy” by destroying a human life, then we are directly responsible if it does. We cannot say that we are morally certain a child will not die as a result of Plan B when we admit there is a chance one could die, no matter how improbable we believe that chance to be.

The hunter in the woods can’t settle for probabilities. If we accept that Plan B carries a risk of abortion, there is a reasonable fear that an abortion could take place, and we cannot be morally certain that one will not.  Any risk of directly committing an abortion is unacceptable, however remote.

As bioethics expert Bishop Elio Sgreccia, then-president of the Pontifical Academy for Life, told LifeSiteNews in 2008, Plan B “is not able to prevent the rape. But it is able to eliminate the embryo.  It is thus the second negative intervention on the woman (the first being the rape itself).”

We must always err on the side of life

I know that this is a heart-wrenching and deeply personal issue, especially of course for women who have suffered rape and taken Plan B on doctors’ advice. I want to emphasize that I am no way intending to make accusations. This is a complex issue, and I am in no position (and have no desire) to judge a decision made in such horribly difficult circumstances.

I’ve made my case against Plan B from the perspective of those suggesting the abortifacient risk is minimal. But many researchers, theologians, and pro-life advocates are gravely concerned that it’s more than a remote possibility, and it’s not my intention to suggest otherwise. My point is that even if we accept the premise that it is simply a remote possibility, that’s still enough to rule it out on moral grounds.

Commenters accused Elise Hilton of jumping into a serious life-or-death decision based on faulty science. But the science is far from settled, and where there is doubt we must always err on the side of life.

I stand with her.

Patrick Craine is Canadian Bureau Chief for and the president of Campaign Life Coalition NS.  He lives with his wife and two children in a rural town in Nova Scotia.

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Pope Francis attacks ‘fundamentalist’ Catholics, dismisses condom ban as unimportant

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By John-Henry Westen

ABOARD THE PAPAL PLANE, November 30, 2015 (LifeSiteNews) -- On the plane returning from his journey to Africa today Pope Francis made his clearest remarks in condemnation of ‘fundamentalist’ Catholics.

"Fundamentalism is a sickness that is in all religions," Francis said, as reported by the National Catholic Reporter’s Vatican correspondent, Joshua McElwee, and similarly by other journalists on the plane.  "We Catholics have some -- and not some, many -- who believe in the absolute truth and go ahead dirtying the other with calumny, with disinformation, and doing evil."

"They do evil," said the pope. "I say this because it is my church."

"We have to combat it," he said. "Religious fundamentalism is not religious, because it lacks God. It is idolatry, like the idolatry of money."

Turning to Islam, the pope spoke of his friendship with a Muslim, adding, “You cannot cancel out a religion because there are some groups, or many groups in a certain point of history, of fundamentalists.”

"Like everything, there are religious people with values and those without," he said. "But how many wars … have Christians made? The sacking of Rome was not done by Muslims, eh?"

STORY: Vatican’s liturgy chief contradicts Pope Francis on Communion for non-Catholics

On the same flight a journalist asked about the use of condoms in the fight against AIDS and if it was time for the Church to change its position.

The pope acknowledged that condoms are one method of prevention, saying that the Church was faced with a perplexity of whether to follow the fifth commandment (Thou shalt not kill) “or that sexual relations are open to life.” 

He dismissed this however as ‘not the problem’ and said it reminded him of the question asked Jesus, “Tell me, teacher, is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath? Is it obligatory to heal?’

Catholic News Agency carries the fullest rendition of the pope’s quotes on the matter, relating his words thus:

“Let’s not talk about if one can use this type of patch or that for a small wound, the serious wound is social injustice, environmental injustice,” Pope Francis continued. “I don’t like to go down to reflections on such case studies when people die due to a lack of water, hunger, environment...when all are cured, when there aren’t these illnesses, tragedies, that man makes, whether for social injustice or to earn more money – I think of the trafficking of arms – when these problems are no longer there, I think we can ask the question ‘Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath?’”

 “Because, if the trafficking of arms continues, wars are the biggest cause of mortality...I would say not to think about whether it’s lawful or not to heal on the Sabbath, I would say to humanity: ‘make justice,’ and when all are cured, when there is no more injustice, we can talk about the Sabbath.”

While in Africa the pope used very strong language to promote the climate change agreement at the Paris climate summit that started today. He said it would be a “catastrophe” if it did not achieve acceptance in Paris in the coming days and added that the decision came down to the choice “either to improve or to destroy the environment.”

Speaking at the United Nations center in Nairobi on November 26, Pope Francis said, “In a few days an important meeting on climate change will be held in Paris, where the international community as such will once again confront these issues. It would be sad, and I dare say even catastrophic, were particular interests to prevail over the common good and lead to manipulating information in order to protect their own plans and projects.”

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Ben Carson on Colorado shooting: pro-lifers need to ‘tone down’ ‘hateful rhetoric’

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By Ben Johnson

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colorado, November 30, 2015 (LifeSiteNews) - After a string of verbal gaffes and controversies over the depth of his pro-life convictions, Dr. Ben Carson has implied that the pro-life movement needs to "tone down" its "hateful rhetoric" and "become more mature."

The doctor was asked on CBS's "Face the Nation" about abortion supporters' claims that pro-life speech led to Robert Lewis Dear's shooting inside a Colorado Springs Planned Parenthood over the Thanksgiving holiday weekend.

"There is no question that hateful rhetoric, no matter which side it comes from, Right or Left, is something that is detrimental to our society," Dr. Carson said. "This has been a big problem."

"No question the hateful rhetoric exacerbates the situation," Carson affirmed.

Lamenting that social discourse had become less civil, he said modern political "rhetoric is extremely immature, divisive, and is not helpful."

“I think both sides should tone down their rhetoric and engage in civil discussion," Dr. Carson said.

Pro-life leaders were quick to rebut his charges that they engage in extreme or immature rhetoric. (See related story.)

After briefly leading rival Donald Trump in a series of national polls, Carson's presidential hopes have crumpled amidst a series of misstatements and retractions that have led national commentators to question whether the political novice is ready to be president of the United States. Last Sunday, talk show host Rush Limbaugh told Fox News that Ben Carson is "probably not" fully "equipped to be president."

The statement apparently condemning pro-life rhetoric comes after Carson, a famed neurosurgeon, told a Florida reporter that attempts to save the life of Terri Schiavo were "much ado about nothing."

Dr. Carson told LifeSiteNews exclusively that his remarks had been taken out of context by a Tampa Bay Times reporter. The reporter later posted the full transcript of his question, and Dr. Carson's answer to provide context.

Full transcript of the "Face the Nation" segment:

Dickerson: OK. I would like to ask you about a domestic political event or what some people see has a political element to it, and that's the shooting at a Planned Parenthood location in Colorado Springs.

Some abortion rights supporters have said that the rhetoric has led to that kind of violence. What's your view on that?

Carson: There is no question that hateful rhetoric, no matter which side it comes from, Right or Left, is something that is detrimental to our society.

This has been a big problem. Our strength in this country has traditionally been in our unity. And we are allowing all kinds of circumstances to divide us and make us hateful toward each other. And the rhetoric is extremely immature, divisive, and is not helpful.

When you have outside forces, global Islamic radical jihadists who want to destroy us, why would we be doing that to ourselves? We, at some point, have got to become more mature. No question the hateful rhetoric exacerbates the situation, and we should be doing all we can to engage an intelligence, civil discussion about our differences.

That's how we solve problems. We don't ever solve them with hateful rhetoric.

Dickerson: Should abortion rights -- excuse me -- should those who oppose abortion rights tone down their rhetoric?

Carson: I think both sides should tone down their rhetoric and engage in civil discussion.

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Robert Lewis Dear
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Everything we know about the Planned Parenthood shooter

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By John Jalsevac
Robert Dear's shanty in North Carolina where he spent part of his time.

November 30, 2015 (LifeSiteNews) - Planned Parenthood, and supporters of abortion rights, have pointed to Friday's shooting at a Planned Parenthood facility as evidence that the pro-life movement is responsible for encouraging violence through its "hateful rhetoric." Planned Parenthood of Rocky Mountains has declared that the shooter himself "was motivated by opposition to Planned Parenthood and access to abortion," although police have not officially released any information about his motives.

Meanwhile, the picture emerging of the man who allegedly opened fire at a Planned Parenthood facility Friday is one of a deeply disturbed recluse who, though opposed to abortion, had little interest in and no known history of active involvement in the abortion debate, with a long spate of run-ins with the law and a pattern of bizarre behavior that left some of those who encountered him fearful for their safety, and many convinced that he wasn't in his right mind.

On Saturday morning Colorado Springs police identified Robert Lewis Dear, 57, of North Carolina, as the suspect in the shooting that left three dead, and another nine injured. Dear allegedly began shooting outside the Planned Parenthood facility just before noon, Mountain Time, Friday, before retreating into the facility for a five hour stand-off with police.

Planned Parenthood has confirmed that none of its staff were injured in the shooting. Both of the civilians killed were reportedly accompanying friends to appointments.

The New York Daily News reports that an online dating profile that appears to have been posted by Dear in the early 2000s has Dear asking for "discreet" sadomasochistic sex, as well as pot-smoking companions. Other posts on by someone with a username associated with Dear, include what the Daily News describes as "paranoid Biblical rants." reports that Dear was arrested and charged in 2002 on "animal cruelty," eavesdropping and "peeping tom" charges. He was acquitted of the animal cruelty charges after a bench trial, while the latter charges were dismissed.

The animal cruelty charge was apparently related to an incident in which Dear allegedly shot a neighbor's dog in the leg with a pellet gun.

USA Today reports that a 2004 police report shows Dear threatened to "do bodily harm" to a neighbor.

He also has numerous previous convictions for various traffic violations. These include seat belt violations, driver’s license violations, operating a vehicle in an unsafe mechanical condition and driving a non-registered vehicle.

ABC reports that Dear spent some of his time living in a cabin in the woods in North Carolina, without running water or electricity. Neighbors say he was a quiet man who seemed "off." They said that when he did speak, he tended to ramble on a disconnected series of topics.

One neighbor, James Russell, said that two topics they never heard Dear speak about were religion and abortion. Russell also said that Dear tended to avoid eye contact. "Nothing with him was very cognitive," said Russell about Dear.

RELATED: Police officer killed at Planned Parenthood was pro-life, Christian pastor

James Howie, who lived close to one of Dear's remote properties in North Carolina, told USA Today that Dear once asked him to do some foundation work on his shack. After accompanying Dear to the job site, Howie declined the job. "I was just glad to get home," he said about the experience, adding that in his view Dear seemed crazy, although not dangerous.

Another neighbor told the Washington Post that Dear "was the kind of person you had to watch out for. He was a very weird individual. It's hard to explain, but he had a weird look in his eye most of the time."

Another neighbor told the Post, "He complained about everything. He said he worked with the government, and everybody was out to get him, and he knew the secrets of the USA. He said, 'Nobody touch me, because I've got enough information to put the whole U.S. of A in danger.' It was very crazy."

Another neighbor said that she and her family "kept out of his way." "He wouldn't really speak to anybody, he wouldn't wave," Mallory Nicoletti, 29, told the Citizen-Times.

John Hood, another neighbor, told NBCNews that Dear rarely spoke with him, but when he did, it was to offer bizarre advice. On one occasion, said Hood, Dear urged him to get a metal roof installed on his house, so the US government couldn't spy on him. Hood also said he erected a fence between their properties, because Dear had a habit of skinny dipping. 

RELATED: This one shot from the latest PP sting video might be the most disturbing thing you see all year

Those living in the North Carolina community where Dear had his shack said they were frustrated by the fact that Dear would leave for days at a time, leaving behind two dogs with no food or water, who would start to get aggressive.

“We’re not isolationists,” one resident said. “You know how whenever someone goes crazy, the neighbors say he was so quiet and normal. That wasn’t the case here. He was weird. Everyone kept an eye on him.”

"He was really tightly wound," said another resident. "You could see that from the stress on his face, from the way he acted.”

Still another went even further, telling the Post, "He was just always saying, ‘I know the U.S. is trying to kill everybody’ and do this and do that. He [said he] was an undercover [agent]. Just craziness. Just pure, right-out craziness all the time.

“I’m kind of glad he’s put away now."

The Gateway Pundit also reports that, bizarrely, Dear was registered to vote as a woman, although it is unclear whether this is simply a clerical error or has any deeper significance. His party was listed as "unaffiliated."

One anonymous source, reportedly with the police, told the Washington Post that in a confusing rant following his arrest Dear did make mention of "baby body parts," suggesting some connection with the recent series of undercover videos showing Planned Parenthood staffers harvesting and selling the body parts of aborted babies.

However, the source added that this was but one topic among many mentioned by Dear in a speech that left investigators unclear as to his specific motivation.

Planned Parenthood has issued a statement saying that based upon eyewitnesses they believe Dear "was motivated by opposition to safe and legal abortion." 

Dear's ex-wife, Pamela Ross, told the New York Times he was a Bible-believing Christian, and that he opposed abortion, but that it "was never really a topic of conversation" in their house.

RELATED: Planned Parenthood shooting suspect surrenders, is in custody: police

Ross and Dear divorced in 2000. The picture that Ross paints of her ex-husband as a physically healthy man who lifted weights, took good care of himself, enjoyed listening to U2 and riding motorcycles, clashes markedly with the accounts of those who lived near him in the years since their parting. 

Ross said she was shocked at the man she saw on TV following his arrest this weekend.

“Something must have happened to him when he moved away, that’s all I know," she said. “Me and our whole family are extremely devastated and heartbroken by the victims of these families, and we have no words that can ever comfort them other than to say we’re sorry for what he did.”

However, Ross admits that she did call police on Dear in 1997, after a case of domestic violence. She didn't press charges at the time.

Dear reportedly brought several "items" with him into the Planned Parenthood facility, which police had said they were concerned could be explosives. Early Saturday morning police tweeted that those items have been "secured" and are "no longer a threat."

Subsequent reports have suggested those items were propane tanks that Dear may have been trying to shoot in order to cause an explosion.

After a five-hour standoff with police, during which Dear repeatedly exchanged gunfire with them, police were able to establish voice contact with the suspect by shouting. At that point they were able to convince him to surrender.

While some reports have indicated that the shooting actually began outside a nearby Chase Bank, and may have been related to a robbery, Springfield police spokeswoman Lt. Catherine Buckley said at a press conference Friday evening that the shooting appears to have begun at the Planned Parenthood. 

While Dear's motive is still unknown, pro-life groups have issued statements condemning the violence, and urging caution in jumping to conclusions.

"Information is very sketchy about the currently active shooting situation in Colorado Springs," said Fr. Frank Pavone of Priests for Life. "The Planned Parenthood was the address given in the initial call to the police, but we still do not know what connection, if any, the shooting has to do with Planned Parenthood or abortion."

"As leaders in the pro-life movement, we call for calm and pray for a peaceful resolution of this situation."

Troy Newman of Operation Rescue and Rev. Patrick J. Mahoney, Director of the Christian Defense Coalition, also issued statements.

"Operation Rescue unequivocally deplores and denounces all violence at abortion clinics and has a long history of working through peaceful channels to advocate on behalf of women and their babies," said Newman. "We express deep concern for everyone involved and are praying for the safety of those at the Planned Parenthood office and for law enforcement personnel. We pray this tragic situation can be quickly resolved without further injury to anyone."

"Although we don't know the reasons for the shooting near the Planned Parenthood in Colorado Springs today, the pro-life movement is praying for the safety of all involved and as a movement we have always unequivocally condemned all forms of violence at abortion clinics. We must continually as a nation stand against violence on all levels," said Rev. Patrick J. Mahoney, Director of the Christian Defense Coalition, based in Washington, D.C.


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