Catholic hospitals and “emergency” contraception

I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised, but it turns out that some bishops allow their Catholic hospitals to provide emergency contraception in cases of rape, provided there is no evidence of ovulation (therefore making it unlikely that the woman involved could be pregnant). The USCCB’s ethical directives do appear to support this, but there is a huge problem. To my knowledge, there is no way to definitively, without a shadow of a doubt, show that ovulation and fertilization have not occurred. As Dr. John Shea explains:

A serious problem with this approach is that the LH [luteinizing hormone, the presence of which correlates with ovulation] assay may fail to indicate the presence of a pregnancy and plasma levels of progesterone may fail to distinguish whether a woman is in the phase before or after ovulation. The fact that there is no elevation of the progesterone level does not necessarily mean that ovulation has not
taken place. It takes a few hours before that increase shows up in the blood.

We cannot completely rule out fertilization, therefore we cannot completely rule out that treating a rape victim with “emergency contraception” is not actually causing an abortion. The USCCB’s directives are terribly vague and liable to being interpreted wrongly–as they have been by bishops in Connecticut, Wisconsin, and elsewhere.

This is a terrible tragedy, and I pray that the Vatican, which has been requested to rule on this matter, moves quickly to stop it.

As it is, I fear that there are quite a few more bishops who, as St. Athanasius said, will have their skulls paving the floor of you-know-where.

(HT: the Caveman)

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2 Responses to “Catholic hospitals and “emergency” contraception”


  1. 1 Paul Druce May 7, 2007 at 4:44 pm

    Actually it is licit, on the grounds of protecting oneself from assault. I’m not sure where it is off-hand, but I’ve got a book on medical morality, I can quote it when I find it.

  2. 2 Edmund C. May 7, 2007 at 4:46 pm

    You’re right, Paul, as long as it can be ensured that no fertilization has taken place. My point, and that of Dr. Shea, is that there is not a reliable way to do that.


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