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Point Man for Connecticut Bishops on Plan B ‘Emergency Contraception’ Totally Confused on Issue

LifeSiteNews.com

By John-Henry Westen

  HARTFORD, October 2, 2007 (LifeSiteNews.com) - Barry Feldman is general counsel for St. Francis Hospital the lead spokesman for the Connecticut Catholic Bishops conference regarding their newly announced permission to administer the morning after pill Plan B to rape victims in Catholic hospitals in the state. 

  In seeking comment on the decision LifeSiteNews.com spoke with the pro-life office of the US Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) but was directed to the executive director of the Connecticut Catholic Conference (CCC).  Deacon David Reynold, acting director of the CCC referred LifeSiteNews.com to Barry Feldman as their spokesman on the issue.  Mr. Feldman is the Senior Vice President and General Counsel for Hartford’s St. Francis Hospital and Medical Center.  Indeed in every story in the mainstream press on the decision by the CCC to allow for Plan B in Catholic hospitals, Feldman is the spokesman. 

  In an interview with LifeSiteNews.com Feldman displayed a fundamental error in thinking around Plan B.  He suggested that the "morning after pill" which was condemned by the Pontifical Academy for Life in 2000 was entirely different from "emergency contraception" such as Plan B which was now being permitted in Catholic hospitals for rape victims after the administration of a pregnancy test.

  Asked if he was familiar with the Vatican document issued in the year 2000 on the morning after pill, Feldman responded, "Yes I am."

  That document available from the Vatican website ( here: http://www.vatican.va/roman_curia/pontifical_academies/acdlife/documents/rc_pa_a…; ) refers to the morning after pill as "a well-known chemical product (of the hormonal type) which has frequently - even in the past week - been presented by many in the field and by the mass media as a mere contraceptive or, more precisely, as an ‘emergency contraceptive’, which can be used within a short time after a presumably fertile act of sexual intercourse."

  The Pontifical Academy for Life voiced a clear prohibition on the use of the morning after pill.  "Consequently, from the ethical standpoint the same absolute unlawfulness of abortifacient procedures also applies to distributing, prescribing and taking the morning-after pill," said the document. "All who, whether sharing the intention or not, directly co-operate with this procedure are also morally responsible for it."

  Asked how the CCC found itself at odds with the Vatican document, Feldman replied, "What we’re talking about now is emergency contraception which is different from the morning after pill which is referred to in that Vatican document.  What the Vatican document was expressing an opinion on and an objection to was medication or a pill, the morning after pill, that has the direct intended effect of causing an abortion." 

  Feldman added, "Emergency contraception is different, it’s not an abortion pill, its intended to prevent pregnancy and not constitute an abortion.  So what we’re talking about now really is just a totally different subject and a totally different medication than what was addressed in the Vatican document.  The Vatican has not issued any kind of teaching with respect to emergency contraception."

  When LifeSiteNews.com read from the Pontifical Academy document pointing out that it was in fact the same subject, morning after pills, even given the same chemical makeup of the drugs as Plan B, Feldman persisted.

"Well with all due respect," he said, "it really isn’t. This has been researched very, very carefully and it’s two different medications completely. The morning after pill is an abortion pill. Plan B is an emergency contraception pill.  And although there may be some likenesses in regard to the (sic) some of the ingredients within the pills, they are really two totally separate mechanisms, totally separate medications."

  LifeSiteNews.com spoke with Dr. John Shea, a medical doctor who has researched and written extensively on bioethical issues.  Dr. Shea, a member of the Canadian Bioethics Institute confirmed that Plan B, the drug which the CCC has agreed to allow into Catholic hospitals is indeed a morning after pill, and was specifically addressed in the Vatican document where it spoke of a pill containing "only progestogens".

  Richard Doerflinger, Deputy Director for the USCCB Secretariat for Pro-Life Activities, although he would not specifically address the CCC situation, did confirm that the Pontifical Academy’s 2000 document did address Plan B.

  LifeSiteNews.com asked Feldman if he was aware of the opposition of the Catholic Medical Association - the largest professional association of Catholic physicians - to the use of ‘emergency contraception’ for rape victims.  "We are aware of that, their position, yes."

  Asked, "Whose medical advice, if not the advice of Catholic doctors did you take?" Feldman said he could not divulge the names of those the Bishops consulted on the matter.  He called them "confidential" consultations.

  When pressed for a body of experts who backed the Bishops’ stand, Feldman offered the Catholic Health Association and other ethicists connected with Catholic hospital associations.

  Such ethicists are however under intense pressure on the situation since, as ethicists connected directly with Catholic hospitals, they are faced with complying with state pressure to allow the morning after pill for rape victims or face closure of the hospitals.

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