1. Religion & Spirituality
Scott P. Richert

Rape, the "Morning After Pill," and Abortion

By September 30, 2007

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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.

October 1, 2007 at 6:50 am
(1) elnora.juma says:

Peeople will never listen to good advise leave aside quoting the bible, hence its only those who have aborted who knows the immoral side of it plus its effects. Therefore, may be if the gospel of NO ABORTION was spread by the victims it could hit the nail on the head.

October 1, 2007 at 7:14 am
(2) Allen says:

If conception has already occurred, the pill will prevent the implantation of the fertilized egg, and this just similar to abortion. Then, why don’t only provide the function of “immobilizing sperm and stopping ovulation”, so that the pill is acceptable?

October 1, 2007 at 7:51 am
(3) Scott Richert says:

Allen, the “morning after” pill simply can’t work that way. Reformulating it so that it is no longer an abortifacient would also make it unable to stop ovulation.

That’s why the Pontifical Academy for Life condemned the use of Plan B seven years ago. There’s simply no way to ensure that an abortion won’t occur if conception has already occurred.

October 2, 2007 at 8:22 am
(4) Phil says:

This is ridiculous. The potential for abortion is too great to allow the morning after pill in any circumstance. Once conception occurs, there too is a soul, and we ought not send this soul to its eternal destiny on our own accord.

October 2, 2007 at 9:09 am
(5) Dawn Stacey says:

You wrote: 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. This information is imply untrue! Emergency contraception contains the same hormones that are found in birth control pills. The exact mechanism of action is not clear. However, emergency contraception MAY help to reduce the risk of pregnancy by stopping ovulation, blocking fertilization, or by preventing the sperm to join the egg. The mechanism likely depends on where in the menstrual cycle a women is. Additionally, it has been proven that Emergency contraception is NOT an abortifacient; in fact, it is used to prevent pregnancy when taken within 5 days after unprotected intercourse. Having an ultrasound sound really means nothing as EC will NOT harm an existing pregnancy. Finally, medical authorities define an abortion as the termination of a pregnancy. The medical definition of pregnancy is an implanted egg in the uterus; therefore, a woman is not considered to be pregnant if she has a fertilized egg that has not yet implanted. This means that it is impossible for Plan B to terminate a pregnancy since, medically, the pregnancy doesn’t exist! For more on the emergency contraception debate. Thanks!

October 2, 2007 at 10:23 am
(6) Carmen says:

It is always “tempting” to try to minimize the consequences of rape & ensure the woman does not become pregnant. However, that is yet another temptation one must resist, the pill is an abortifacient.

October 2, 2007 at 12:23 pm
(7) Dan says:

So, let’s see: How many of the commentors have been pillaged, plundered and raped under the most degrading circumstance? None of them? Isn’t it interesting how those folks want to force their will upon any woman who has been subjected to a most dispicable, degrading act upon her body will further subject her to carrying the results of the rape for another 9 months? Let’s get REAL people! Suppose it was your wife, sister or daughter? Then would your tune change?

October 2, 2007 at 1:51 pm
(8) Terry Paul says:

Its so easy to be against something or anything. Want has the Church not yet figured out how to be for something or anything. Take this topic: Abortion. Could not the church support pregant women with medical and emotional and material support. Doctors and after care so they can return to being productive mothers. Condemnation is so easy for the Church.

October 2, 2007 at 3:46 pm
(9) Dennis says:

There is a point here that goes deeper and beyond the moral issue of abortion. This decision of the Conn. bishops came mere days before the Catholic hospitals in the area were going to be forced by the law to administer the drug in rape cases. The bishops are hiding behind what they claim are unclear facts about the pill and no real guidelines from Rome about it. Both arguments are shallow and baseless at best. Regardless of that, if indeed the facts weren’t really that obvious then the decision should have been made not to administer the pill until the facts could be made clear. The bishops answer to God and the pontiff first. We have scores of martyrs in testimony to that. Their decision is one charachteristic of a politician and not clergy. These men would are responsible for this action have no right to speak out or condemn anyone so long as they stand behind this decision. I pray that Benedict will deal with them appropriately.

October 2, 2007 at 9:06 pm
(10) Al says:

It is a very difficult situation but I know of two persons who were raped. both wanted to abort the child because they did get pregnant. They came to me and I prayed with them and asked them to save the Child’s life and give me the child after birth. Both mothers thought the child was the most beautiful gift they have ever been given – after the child was born and refused the give up the child for adoption. As a result of these two living testimonies I would not be in a position to support “for the pill to be given after rape” given that only God knows what He has planted and who are we to interfere with God’s creative work. The effects of our interference already has the world in such a state that we ourselves are wondering what next.

October 4, 2007 at 1:52 am
(11) Kristina says:

I cannot believe that the Connecticut Bishops would allow the Morning After Pill to be used in Catholic Hospitals, especially since it serves to prevent an unborn child from implanting in the lining of the uterus. It serves the same purpose as the Birth Control Pill, which is a known abortifacient. Shame on them for helping to kill innocent life! How are we going to end abortion, if our own Catholic Bishops are going against the teachings of the Church. May God forgive them and may they change their minds and reverse their decisions. They need to go to the Priests for Life website and witness what an abortion looks like and see what abortion does to the unborn and the unborn’s mother. I pray every day that abortion and the evil it spreads will be ended for once and for all!

October 5, 2007 at 12:10 pm
(12) JeffreyMark says:

No pill,to kill,the child is not at fault and God can make that mother still the perfect mother to the child,it can be hard on the mother if the child looks like the rapist but Gods Grace can work thourgh that.

June 29, 2011 at 7:19 pm
(13) Sara says:

Well, how nice that a woman will have to suffer untold bodily and emotional violations because of YOUR religious ideals!!! I tell you what, after you have been forcibly impregnated and forced to carry that child to term, to relive the rape every day, then can talk. Until then, you have no right to force your backwards religious values on the rest of the world. This is how we know the Cathoilic Church is designed for and run by men. It is second only to Islam in it’s misogynist behavior.

Just curious, how many of you have adopted children? Fostered a child? Took a poor, unwed mother into your home? I bet not one of you. Your dedication to a child’s life is touching, but it seems to end the moment the child is born.

October 28, 2007 at 11:03 pm
(14) Kate says:

I have been struggling with the practical aspect of this, so I appreciate the clarity. The second time my daughter was raped–yes, the second time–we were asked about using this (not clearly identified) drug. I expressed my concern about abortion as did she, and the trauma nurse’s explanation fell within the category that we would not be aborting a child, but preventing a pregnancy. I had less trouble accepting that, until much later after the initial traumas abated. I told myself that was the lesser of evils–but now I see it as just another evil.

November 19, 2007 at 5:02 pm
(15) Begona says:

This is a difficult question. On one hand, life does begin at conception and that is a fact. However, it is cruel, repeat CRUEl, in my opinion to tell a woman who has been raped that she has committed the equivalent of having an abortion by preventing a fertilized egg from being implanted in her womb. If a deeply pious woman decides to trust in God that if she gets pregnant it’s what He wants for her that’s fine and is her leap of faith. But doing otherwise is not the equivalent of tearing apart a forming fetus with a heartbeat and brain activity. Not having an abortion is case of rape is having compassion for the life inside of you, but absolutely being against merely preventing the implantation in the womb of a fertilzed egg is a lack of compassion for the woman who has been raped.

August 1, 2008 at 8:46 pm
(16) Steve says:

Lets say a mother concieved a child after being raped.

Lets say she has the baby and its 5 months old and she decides to kill it because it is to painful for her. It always reminds her of the rape… Is it ok?

Lets say its 5 minutes old? is it ok?

If not, why would it be ok if it was 8 months after conception… 8 days… 8 minutes?

October 4, 2008 at 1:03 pm
(17) Owen says:

“It is always “tempting” to try to minimize the consequences of rape & ensure the woman does not become pregnant. However, that is yet another temptation one must resist, the pill is an abortifacient.”

I dislike your choice of the word “tempting” in your first statement. It is not merely tempting to prevent a rape victim from becoming pregnant. It is a moral obligation.

Regarding your second statement, even if you believe that an established life is fully created at the instant of fertilization (a view I do not happen to share), the morning-after pill only acts as an abortifacient if fertilization has already occurred and implantation is successfully prevented. If the pill prevents fertilization from occurring, then it acts as a contraceptive.

In the future, please exercise more caution when making an unqualified statement.

October 4, 2008 at 3:10 pm
(18) Owen says:

“It serves the same purpose as the Birth Control Pill, which is a known abortifacient.”

Fact: The regular Birth Control Pill is a contraceptive, not an abortifacient.

Your failure to see the difference is tragic and irrational.

October 4, 2008 at 3:34 pm
(19) Scott P. Richert says:

Owen, you’re wrong. The birth control pill has been shown, in a number of studies, to act as an abortifacient if conception does occur. It was this very property of the pill that led pharmaceutical companies to create a reformulated version (“Plan B”) that accentuated the abortifacient properties.

As for your remark that Plan B “only acts as an abortifacient if fertilization has already occurred and implantation is successfully prevented,” the problem here is that there’s no way to prevent it from acting as an abortifacient after it has been taken. In other words, the intent of taking it is for it to act as an abortifacient–if, indeed, the egg is fertilized.

That means that it is intrinsically wrong, because one of the stated intentions of its use is to bring about the destruction of a newly conceived human being.

October 4, 2008 at 4:54 pm
(20) Owen says:

Scott, you’re wrong. See, the link below:


This link lists a number side effects, including those pertaining to weight, sexuality, depression, as well as leukorrhea (increased vaginal secretions), reductions in menstrual flow, mastalgia (breast tenderness), increase in breast size, and decrease in acne.

Nowhere in this article does it reveal that regular birth-control would increase the chances of a miscarriage/abortion.

The article mentions that some pro-lifers regard the pill as an abortifacient, but no evidence is given to reinforce this claim.

I know not the articles or studies that you rely on, but I doubt their accuracy.

October 4, 2008 at 5:21 pm
(21) Scott P. Richert says:

Owen, I’m not sure it’s worth continuing the discussion, since your statement that you “doubt their accuracy” indicates that you have no intention of being convinced by evidence. Still, in case you are actually more open-minded than your statement makes you appear, you can find multiple studies referenced on the following webpage: http://www.aaplog.org/collition.htm.

You’ll note that one of these studies is, in fact, from the Alan Guttmacher Institute–the research arm of Planned Parenthood. You can doubt their accuracy, I suppose, but then you might also have to doubt the accuracy of anything else that the Guttmacher Institute puts out.

October 4, 2008 at 5:26 pm
(22) Scott P. Richert says:

By the way, you’re wrong to claim that “Nowhere in this [Wikipedia] article does it reveal that regular birth-control would increase the chances of a miscarriage/abortion.”

Footnote 61 is to a study that indicates just that: http://archfami.ama-assn.org/cgi/reprint/9/2/126.pdf. The study was published by the American Medical Association–hardly a biased pro-life group.

October 4, 2008 at 6:27 pm
(23) Owen says:

This quote from the latter article stood out.

“Data from case-controlled series
demonstrate that women with
clinically recognized pregnancy are
no more or less likely to miscarry
based on whether they were taking
an OC after their pregnancy was
clinically recognized.”

Later on in the article you will find this quote:

“We found the evidence supporting
postfertilization effects for OCs in
the prevention of clinically recognized
pregnancy to range from poor
(level III) to very good (level II.2).”

That is enough to raise doubts in my mind regarding the accuracy of the article’s findings.

October 4, 2008 at 7:22 pm
(24) Scott P. Richert says:

Sadly, Owen, you’ve simply proved that you really aren’t interested in considering evidence that doesn’t match up with your preconceived notion. I’ll take a peer-reviewed AMA-published study–itself relying on dozens of other peer-reviewed studies (check the footnotes)–over your “doubts.”

More to the point–the AMA-published study was cited by the Wikipedia article that you recommended (which is the only evidence you’ve offered to back up your contention that the Pill is not an abortifacient). If you’re now casting your “doubts” on a piece of evidence cited by the Wikipedia article, that means, logically, that you’re calling into question the validity of the Wikipedia article as a whole.

October 4, 2008 at 8:00 pm
(25) Owen says:

You missed the point entirely. I am questioning the validity of those who say that the pill is the sole cause of a miscarriage, which you consider as an abortion (I don’t share this overly-broad definition of an abortion).

Furthermore, see the link below:


In it you will find the following quote:

“Coffee drinking before and during pregnancy was associated with over twice the risk of miscarriage when the mother consumed 2-3 cups of coffee per day.”

If you are in favor of criminalizing women who take the pill, are you also in favor of doing the same for those women who drink coffee prior to pregnancy, out of fear that such consumption would increase the chances of a miscarriage?

October 4, 2008 at 8:21 pm
(26) Scott P. Richert says:

Changing the topic isn’t the way to win an argument, Owen. You began by claiming that the pill is not an abortifacient, not that the pill is not “the sole cause of a miscarriage,” something which neither I nor any commenter here has claimed.

I responded to your claim regarding the abortifacient effects of the Pill with evidence, drawn from the only article you cited to back up your claim; you dismissed a peer-reviewed AMA-published article on the basis of your unsubstantiated “doubts.”

Now, you claim that I am “in favor of criminalizing women who take the pill,” something I’ve never written. Setting up straw men, like changing the subject, is not the way to hold a rational argument.

October 4, 2008 at 8:44 pm
(27) Owen says:

I don’t believe I changed the subject. If you are adamant that the pill is an abortifacient, and assuming you believe the previous article that I sent, then you must assume that coffee is also an abortifacient. What is irrational about that argument?

Also, if you agree that the pill is not the sole cause of a miscarriage, then how can you confirm that it is an abortificiant?

October 4, 2008 at 9:02 pm
(28) Scott P. Richert says:

Owen, this is getting old. The article that you link regarding coffee does not claim that it is an abortifacient–a word which has a specific medical meaning (i.e., a substance that causes an abortion). Rather, it notes a correlation between coffee drinking (over a certain quantity) and higher rates of miscarriage.

As for your second point, apparently I’ve misunderstood you. When you wrote “I am questioning the validity of those who say that the pill is the sole cause of a miscarriage,” I took that to mean that you were saying that someone here was claiming that the pill is the sole cause of miscarriage. Instead, you apparently mean that the pill, by itself, can cause a miscarriage. That’s something different. If you want to engage in a discussion, you should be more careful in your use of words.

But even accounting for my misunderstanding of your mangled sentence, we’re still back at the same point: You claimed that the pill is not an abortifacient; I countered your claim with peer-reviewed, AMA-published evidence; you dismissed the evidence on the basis of unsubstantiated doubts; and now you’re trying to change the discussion from the abortifacient effects of the pill to miscarriage.

If you want to continue the conversation, find a study that refutes the one that I cited–the one I found in the Wikipedia article that you cited. If you’re correct, that shouldn’t be that hard to do–the article was published nine years ago, so there’s been plenty of time for other researchers to dispute it.

If you can’t find such a study, there’s really not much else to say. As I stated before, your “doubts” don’t really measure up against a peer-reviewed, AMA-published article.

November 11, 2011 at 11:56 am
(29) Jan says:

Years ago there was a widely spread theory that it is not common to become pregnant from a rape because of some shock/fear mechanism that happens that keeps fertilization from happening; some chemical-type reaction?
It sounds crazy but I remember it was a theory at that time. Any one know anything about that, or remember that?

November 17, 2008 at 3:39 pm
(30) mi says:

After you are raped, then you can give an opinion, however only opinion, only God can judge, those who choose to have anabortion after a rape will already suffer the rest of their lives in fear, you can not make that decision for another person. God gives us free will and he will deal with us on his terms no one elses.

November 11, 2011 at 10:58 am
(31) Jan says:

I have a question: is it true that when a person is raped there is a chemical reaction in her body that makes it harder for her to get pregnant (something that is triggered by shock) ? I know it sounds crazy but this was a widely spread opinion in the 80′s. Is there any validity to this?

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January 30, 2013 at 5:59 pm
(33) Lauren says:

In the 4th century christain artists abstracted the forms of humans because if their image of humans were too real they they were usurping God’s power of creation. And yet almost anyone on earth can create an life, or in many of your terms a soul. This is a power that no one seems to have a problem with. Yet as we destroy the earth, process natural food and live unconnected from the natural earth that god created we debate more about the power to stop a creation than the worries about creation itself. These babies that are unwanted are because of terrible environments where the child will in most cases not make it past age 21, being abused, abandoned, and uncared for. This fight we all care about is about a life that either way no one cares about that makes for serious damaging problems in a human life. This creation is a damaged life that is not meant for anyone. And also legally no ones Buisness. In America there is a separation of church and state. We are not the only ones with a religion we have to respect that. Love thy neighbor. If we force our morals on them who’s to say they don’t upon us?

January 30, 2013 at 6:08 pm
(34) Lauren says:

I think certain basic questions need to be considered.
If god did not want this pill, why would it exist?
Why should one religion’s view have control of a law?
What if another religion was in control of this law?
Why can we not compromise?
Just because this pill is out there does not mean it should affect any good Christian
This fight is purely to control other people.
The pill is only works if someone is not yet pregnant- therefore not considered an abortion

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