Emergency contraception bill: A stealth attack on religious freedom

Bill 546, passed June 16 by the Massachusetts Senate, would force all hospitals to provide the “morning after” pill to any rape victim who requests even if the woman was already pregnant.

The Bill reads: “It shall be the standard of care for facilities that provide emergency care to promptly offer emergency contraception at the facility to each female rape victim of childbearing age, and to initiate emergency contraception upon her request.”

If passed in the House and signed by the Governor, the bill will oblige Catholic hospitals to cooperate with the evil of abortion.

We decry the malicious intent of the State Senate to force Catholic hospitals to violate their religious and ethical principles. This is an attack on religious freedom.

The Church is fully committed to the defense of rape victims against a potential conception from a sexual assault, but the Church is also fully committed to the protection of human life from the moment of conception. When these two values clash, the obligation to protect human life prevails.

In a 2001 document, the U.S. bishops explain the Catholic position on emergency contraception: “Compassionate and understanding care should be given to a person who is the victim of sexual assault. Health care providers should cooperate with law enforcement officials, offer the person psychological and spiritual support and accurate medical information. A female who has been raped should be able to defend herself against a potential conception from the sexual assault. If, after appropriate testing, there is no evidence that conception has occurred already, she may be treated with medications that would prevent ovulation, sperm capacitation, or fertilization. It is not permissible, however, to initiate or to recommend treatments that have as their purpose or direct effect the removal, destruction, or interference with the implantation of a fertilized ovum” (“Ethical and Religious Directives for Catholic Health Care Services,” n.36).

Bill 546 should be amended to include clear language to restrict the use of the “morning after pill.” Language in New York State’s legislation would serve as an acceptable alternative. It calls for the use of emergency contraceptives as long as they “are not contraindicated, the woman is not pregnant, and it is within a medically appropriate amount of time from the attack.”

Are we asking for something disproportionate or unreasonable? No, on its own merits... unless Bill 546 were part of a concerted attack to undermine Catholic hospitals’ policy not to perform abortions.

Maria Parker, Associate Director for Public Policy of the Massachusetts Catholic Conference, explains that the passing of Bill 546 fits squarely within the goal of a so-called Coalition for Choice that includes Planned Parenthood, Catholics for a Free Choice, Pro-Choice NARAL and a Cambridge group called The Abortion Access Project.

Parker said that Catholic hospitals come under particular criticism because they refuse to provide contraception and abortion. She called Senate Bill 546 “the wolf in sheep’s clothing, because it uses the emotional issue of sexual assault as a cover for beginning the attack on the Church’s opposition to abortion.”

"There is a three-step national campaign to bring the Catholics in line," she said. "The strategy, outlined on the Abortion Access Project's website, started a few years back with promoting mandatory insurance coverage for contraceptives, is continuing with legislation such as Senate Bill 546 aimed at interfering with emergency room policies in Catholic hospitals, and will seek to end with forcing insurers to cover abortions and all hospitals to perform them," Parker warned.

"The Project states online that unregulated sexual freedom lies at the root of the group's view of feminism", Parker noted, "and it views contraception and abortion to be essential to a woman's reproductive rights."

Thus, she continued, “what you have here is a clash of world views. The Catholic vision of health care differs radically from any ideology holding that the root of feminism is sexual license, that the ability to conceive new life and pregnancy itself are diseases to be cured, and that abortion as birth control is essential to feminine dignity.”

On the other hand, Parker pointed out, “Catholic health care calls for compassionate approaches to women’s well-being that serve, rather than deny, the gifts of life, femininity, and sexuality understood in the context of marriage and family.”

Bill 546 has to be amended — or stopped — in the House. Let’s not confuse concern and compassion for a rape victim, with a carefully orchestrated campaign to impose a pro-abortion mindset on the entire U.S. health care system.