John-Henry Westen

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Spanish bishops, doctor question German bishops’ approval of morning after pill

John-Henry Westen
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MADRID, March 5, 2013 (LifeSiteNews.com) - News of the German Bishops’ conditional approval of the morning after pill for rape victims and the subsequent approval of their decision by the head of the Vatican department dealing with pro-life issues has spread around the Catholic world, with some voicing incredulity and alarm. 

One of those voicing concern is Spanish Bishop Juan Antonio Martínez Camino, secretary for the Spanish Bishops’ Conference, who has publicly questioned the German Bishops Conference's statement. 

In their press release, the German bishops specified that they had approved the pills, but only if they acted solely in a contraceptive rather than abortive manner. But Bishop Antonio said that such a pill does not exist. 

"If there is a pill that prevents conception in cases of rape, then it is licit to prevent it," he told El Mundo. He added, however, "We have no knowledge of a morning-after pill without abortifacient effects … If it did exist, we would be sure to know it.” 

The bishop concluded, “all morning-after pills have this possible abortive effect. Therefore, its use is illicit. If it does exist in Germany, we are not aware of it. It is not known to us that this technical possibility exists." 

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A leading Catholic doctor in Spain backed the point, telling Catholic News Agency he would write the German bishops to correct their mistaken views on the science around the morning after pill.  “I'm going to write a long letter to the German Bishops' Conference to give them some scientific light about this topic,” Doctor Justo Aznar told CNA.

Dr. Justo, director for life sciences at the Catholic University of Valencia said he believes the German Bishops’ action is based on “a small technical ignorance.”

“I would say that approximately in half of the cases it acts as a contraceptive and the other half it has an anti-implantation effect,” he added. “So I estimate that there is no way a pill that can end the life of many human beings can be used after rape and it is ethically unjustified.”

As LifeSiteNews.com reported previously, Dr. James Trussell, regarded as the lead researcher on the subject, has said women should be warned about the possible abortifacient effects of so-called "emergency contraceptive." As an avid proponent of the morning after pill, Trussell has good motivation to wish that the pill were not abortifacient, but he has concluded otherwise based upon the science.

Trussell, a senior fellow at the Guttmacher Institute, a member of the Planned Parenthood Federation of America’s national medical committee, and a board member of the NARAL Pro-Choice America Foundation, has published over 50 academic articles on the morning-after pill and runs a popular website and hotline to promote its use. 

In his February 2013 paper discussing the morning after pill, he warns: "To make an informed choice, women must know that [emergency contraceptive pills] … prevent pregnancy primarily by delaying or inhibiting ovulation and inhibiting fertilization, but may at times inhibit implantation of a fertilized egg in the endometrium.” 

The only existing formal Vatican instruction on the morning after pill, a 2000 document forbids its use. When objections were made that the document does not address rape, LifeSiteNews.com secured an interview with the then-head of the Pontifical Academy for Life which issued the 2000 document.  Then-bishop, now Cardinal Elio Sgrecchia, told LifeSiteNews that the prohibition applied to rape as well.

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