Thursday, May 03, 2007

Differing views on "morning after pill" mandate

Our friend Dad29 has been following the debate over the mandatory provision of the "morning after pill" at hospitals for victims of rape. He reports that this legislation will not be opposed by the US Conference of Catholic Bishops. Dad29 lists some objections to the USCCB's position,

Should a woman have been impregnanted by the rape, a pregnancy test would likely not detect it within the first couple of days after the rape, thus taking the morning after pill in such a scenario would cause an abortion even though the pregnancy test had shown no pregnancy.

Dr. John Shea M.D., who has for some years specialized in researching and reporting on life issues, is the medical consultant to He notes that since the administration of abortifacient drugs may place an innocent human life at stake, surety is required that the woman in question is not yet pregnant. That absolute certainty cannot be provided by science, he says. He compares the doubt about whether the woman is already pregnant to the classic example of the hunter's doubt about whether a movement behind a bush is caused by deer or a human being. "You can't shoot unless you're certain it's a deer," he says.

Famed Catholic moral theologian Msgr. William Smith, who teaches at St. Joseph's Seminary in Dunwoodie, New York, concurs. "It's wrong to say, you can use anything that has abortifacient properties. Emergency contraception is double talk ... it's what I call 'verbal engineering'. Catholic hospitals are not free to prescribe or provide anything with abortifacient properties without contradicting their witness."
I checked with Wisconsin Right to Life and received a nice note back from Sue Armacost, Legislative/PAC director for Wisconsin Right to Life,
Regarding SB 129, we wanted to see what the WI Bishops would do on this bill and take our lead from them. After all, it is the Catholic hospitals that would be the ones to have a conscience concern. The bishops are not going to take a position on the bill and neither will Wisconsin Right to Life.

Currently, all Catholic hospitals in WI provide emergency contraceptives to rape victims but only after it is determined that a pregnancy has not occurred. If a pregnancy has occurred, they will not provide emergency contraceptives. The bill, SB 129, does not mandate that emergency contraceptives be provided to a woman if, after testing, it is determined that she is pregnant. Thus, the Catholic hospitals can operate as they currently are. If we were going to have an objection to the bill, it would have been based on violating a hospital's conscience concerns. But that does not appear to be the case with the bill.
Pro-Life Wisconsin is taking a harder line, calling the bill "bad medicine".
“Forcing doctors to immediately provide medication to patients based solely upon their request is simply bad medicine,” said Matt Sande, director of legislation for Pro-Life Wisconsin. “In the case of emergency contraception, such a policy could contradict a physician’s medical judgment as EC could be medically contraindicated for the patient.”

Pro-Life Wisconsin’s primary opposition to SB 129 is based on the abortion-causing action of so-called “emergency contraception.” EC can work in three ways: to suppress ovulation; to inhibit the mobility of sperm, and to alter the lining of the uterus so that a newly conceived child is unable to implant in the womb, thus starving and dying. This last action is pre-implantation chemical abortion.

“There is no truthful person educated in medicine that would deny the possibility that ‘emergency contraception’ may prevent the embryo from implanting in the womb,” said Amy K. Schueckler M.D., a licensed obstetrician and gynecologist from Green Bay. “The clearest analogy is a barefoot toddler clad only in a diaper who wanders outside in the subzero winter snow and is not allowed into a warm home. The child will die. That is the effect of EC on the uterus. The embryonic child will die,” said Schueckler.

Wisconsin law protects the right of hospitals to refuse to participate in morally objectionable practices such as abortion and sterilization. The proposed legislation appears to be in conflict with Wisconsin Statutes 253.09(1) because of the abortion causing effect of so-called emergency contraceptive drugs, as well as with the Wisconsin Constitution which expressly protects the rights of conscience. Under Article 1, Section 18 of the state constitution “any control of, or interference with, the rights of conscience” shall not be permitted. The First Amendment to the United States Constitution further guarantees the right to freely exercise one’s religion convictions.

“Forcing all hospitals to administer ‘emergency contraception’ violates the religious liberty provision of the First Amendment,” said Schueckler. “I urge the Committee to uphold the constitutional rights of medical professionals and reject Senate Bill 129.”