The Church’s moral teaching regarding this matter is summarized by the Bishops of the United States in the Ethical and Religious Directives for Catholic Health Care Services:
A female who has been raped should be able to defend herself against a potential conception from the sexual assault…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. (36)
Also addressing this subject is the Congregation of the Doctrine of Faith’s document Dignitas personae, which states:
It must be noted, however, that anyone who seeks to prevent the implantation of an embryo which may possibly have been conceived, and who therefore either requests or prescribes such a pharmaceutical, generally intends abortion. … Therefore the use of means of interception…fall within the sin of abortion and are gravely immoral. (23)
In February 2013 I commented on various theological and moral errors that were involved with the German Bishop’s conference ruling that allowance for the “morning-after pill” to be used “as long as this has a prophylactic and not an abortive effect”. The beautiful thing about the reports from six articles published out of the HLI ‘Truth and Charity Forum’ is that they gathered experts in the field of science and moral theology to explore and definitely answer the question ‘Does Plan B cause early abortions?’ What they concluded out of those forums is four points:
- Recent large and robust studies indicate that Levonorgestrel-only contraceptives such as Plan B rarely block ovulation, and most likely do result in the death of the embryo if administered during the first 4-5 days of the fertile window.
- A Luteinizing Hormone (LH) protocol – a test whose outcome has been understood to determine whether a drug can be administered based on where the victim is in her cycle – cannot in fact detect that a woman is in these first days of her fertile window. Therefore a negative LH test may well encourage administration of Plan B precisely when it is most likely to cause an early direct abortion.
- Because recent scientific studies have provided very strong data that indicates Plan B rarely has any contraceptive effects and is likely to have embryocidal effects, a medical practitioner cannot attain moral certainty that administration will not lead to early abortion.
- Since one cannot attain moral certainty that abortion will be avoided, protocols and policies that currently permit Catholic health care providers to administer Plan B need to be reconsidered by the appropriate diocesan authorities and hospital administrators. Nations in which abortion is illegal should be aware of this potential abortion-inducing effect and should prohibit the administration of these drugs.
The hope of the HLI in publishing these reports is that the Catholic bishops and those who advise them in these issues will see the urgency of revisiting the approval of Plan B for treatment of women who have been raped. Without reservation, the HLI affirms that women who have been raped do deserve the absolute best life-affirming care possible, and this care should not include drugs that only compound the violence already suffered by causing abortions. Read More of the HLI Position Here:
I join with the HLI in urging the Catholic Bishop Conferences who have made this abortion-drug allowance to revisit this issue in light of clearer science and moral theology. We must have at the center of all of our teachings the great ‘yes’ to human life, which never leads to an errantly conceived notion of murder through compassion due from evil wrought.