Under Catholic moral teaching, a child conceived as the result of a rape is an innocent life and, therefore, cannot morally be aborted. But what if you had the chance to prevent a conception from occurring after a rape? Would that be moral? But what if the only way to prevent a conception from occurring might also cause an abortion, if conception has already occurred?
These questions are at the heart of the controversy over a statement issued by the Catholic bishops of Connecticut on Thursday, September 27. The bishops, responding to a Connecticut law that "does not allow medical professionals to take into account the results of [an] ovulation test," have declared that Catholic hospitals in Connecticut can administer the Plan B "morning after" pill to rape victims, as long as a pregnancy test does not indicate that the woman is pregnant.
Plan B, according to the manufacturer, works by immobilizing sperm, stopping ovulation, and, when conception has already occurred, preventing the implantation of the fertilized egg. In this last case, in the words of the "Statement on the So-Called 'Morning-After Pill,'" released in 2000 by the Pontifical Academy for Life, "the proven 'anti-implantation' action of the morning-after pill is really nothing other than a chemically induced abortion."
Pregnancy tests today are very reliable, but only once the fertilized egg has implanted in the uterus. Until then, their accuracy rate is very low. The Connecticut bishops base their statement on this dubious basis, as well as on "doubt about how Plan B pills and similar drugs work"--even though the manufacturer has no doubt that the pill can and does act as an abortifacient.
That same 2000 statement by the Pontifical Academy for Life concluded that "the absolute unlawfulness of abortifacient procedures also applies to distributing, prescribing and taking the morning-after pill. All who, whether sharing the intention or not, directly co-operate with this procedure are also morally responsible for it."
What do you think? Have the Connecticut bishops violated the Vatican guidelines, and, if so, are they morally responsible for any abortions that may occur as a result? Should Catholic hospitals provide the "morning after" pill to rape victims? Please share your thoughts in the Comments.