A European Commission’s directive mandating that the ellaOne morning-after pill be made available over the counter in all EU member states cannot be followed in Poland because it violates the Criminal Code, Poland’s bishops have warned.
The statement prepared by the Polish Episcopate's Bioethics Panel of Experts points out that there are “several fundamental distortions” about both the function of the drug and the legality of the EU directive.
The directive authorizes the prescription-free sale of ellaOne, a pill containing the drug ulipristal acetate. The pill is marketed as an emergency contraceptive, but can also act as an abortifacient. It currently requires a doctor’s prescription in Germany, Italy, Poland, Hungary, Croatia, and Greece.
The bishops' statement explains that the drug has “a dual mechanism” in that it is “similar to the formulation used in medical abortion (mifepristone), which modifies the functions of the progesterone receptor … resulting in the expulsion of the human embryo from the mother and his death,” which is effectively an abortion rather than contraception.
“Secondly, of course, is a potential blocking of ovulation. Both mechanisms destroy the physiological processes that allow the proper maintenance of the pregnancy or its creation.”
“With regard to the legal aspect,” the bishops state, “it should be emphasized that the assertion of the existence of a Polish obligation [to follow this directive] is completely untrue.”
“It should also be noted that the use of the product, which results in the death of the embryo, can without doubt be considered illegal and punishable behavior in the light of the Polish Criminal Code, and unacceptable in the light of the principle of the protection of human dignity, a declaration of article 30 of the Constitution of the Republic of Poland, from which act no exceptions are allowed.”
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The bishops stress the negative moral influence, especially for youth, of easy availability of the pill.
“The use of so-called emergency contraception opens the door to significant changes in cultural attitudes and relationships between people” the bishops argue, saying that ''it promotes promiscuity and lack of responsibility in forging intimate relationships, it trivializes human sexuality, destroys the ideal of an exclusive relationship between a man and a woman and allows for freedom from responsibility towards other people.''
“Particularly noteworthy is the need to protect children from ever more frequent early sexual initiation. It cannot be allowed that children, without the knowledge of their parents, are given free access to preparations so invasive and dangerous for the psychosexual development of minors,” the bishops say, adding that, “It is the duty of parents to object to the acceptance of the easy distribution of a postcoital pill, for the good of their children.”
''From the point of view of the Church's teaching on morals, the use of the so-called morning-after pill is a grave sin,'' they affirm.
The bishops' statement concludes that promoting the use of the morning-after pill without the supervision of a doctor shows a lack of concern for women's health.
“In the end,” the bishops say, “the most destructive effects of the use of hormonal agents of this type will be seen in young people.”