Plan B and Connecticut

For over a year the Catholic Bishops in Connecticut have been discussing with State legislators, both Senators and Representatives, the proposed Plan B bill, or An Act Concerning Compassionate Care for Victims of Sexual Assault (Senate Bill 1343). It is commonly referred to as the Emergency Contraception Bill.

Let me say from the outset, if the bill were only about emergency contraception there would not be a problem. Traditional Catholic moral theology allows for emergency contraception for a woman who is the victim of rape. What we cannot allow is abortion.

The bill as it is currently proposed would demand that our four Catholic hospitals in Connecticut provide for abortion.

For women who have been victimized by rape all hospitals conduct a pregnancy test. Our Catholic hospitals, and possibly others, administer an ovulation test as well. It is all done in the same procedure without inconvenience to the woman. If the woman is not pregnant or is not ovulating, Plan B, the hormonal pill, may be administered as a contraceptive, preventing ovulation. When the woman is ovulating, Plan B can act as an abortifacient by preventing the fertilized ovum from adhering to the wall of the uterus.

It is astonishing to realize that the bill as currently written would prohibit doctors from administering the ovulation test. It is a simple urine test. Has it ever happened before that legislators have prohibited doctors from obtaining information that is so relevant to the treatment of a patient? What about the woman who is the victim? Is she not entitled to that information?

Our Catholic hospitals do provide extraordinary compassionate care to victims of rape. Any inspection of our emergency departments proves that fact conclusively. At the same time we may not violate our Ethical and Religious Directives and provide abortions in our facilities.

As has been widely noted, there have been discussions concerning possible "third party resolutions." We cannot compromise our ethical principles and convictions. The General Assembly, if it believes it is a compelling State interest, might consider having a sexual assault nurse or some other person provide the pills to the victims in their homes or some other venues. The pills are available in pharmacies and without prescription. The pills may not, however, be administered in our facilities.

We have consulted with a number of Catholic ethicists in various parts of the United States on these issues, and they are in complete agreement with the positions we are articulating.

Clearly at stake here is the free exercise of religious principles in our Catholic hospitals. If any law is passed mandating Plan B in the hospitals of the State, we would expect that Catholic hospitals would be exempt from such a demand.

Catholic Hospitals in many instances have led the way in comprehensive compassionate care for rape victims, with medical care and counseling for the victim and her relatives, both in the hospitals and beyond.

The four Catholic hospitals in Connecticut (Saint Francis, Hartford; Saint Mary's, Waterbury; Saint Raphael, New Haven; and Saint Vincent, Bridgeport) provide well over $100 million of uncompensated care every year. It is part of our mission.

Our hospitals do provide very compassionate care to the victims of sexual assault. We do provide emergency contraception to victims of rape. We cannot provide abortions.

In the Constitution State the freedom to exercise our religious principles is very much at stake. Let your voice be heard.

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