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Emergency Contraception: Science and Morals

Recently the news contained two slightly misleading headlines: “German bishops say morning-after pill is ok in rape cases,” and “Top Vatican official calls German bishop’s approval of morning after pill ‘exemplary’”. On the surface both of these headlines give the appearance of the Church, specifically the German bishops and even the Pontifical Academy for Life, reversing a historic ban on contraception and abortifacients. In all likelihood, the Church will be taken to task over this seeming reversal without a closer inspection. However, as a scientist (molecular biology degree and 9 years as a Forensic Biologist) as well as an apologetics hobbyist, I decided to delve a little deeper into both the science and the morals of emergency contraception (EC).

First, the science… I first looked at the article from Contraception that was referenced in both articles in contention. After reading the entire article, the take-home message appeared to be that a Copper IUD is the most effective EC because it disrupts fertilization as well as implantation, but the two hormonal types of EC were ineffective because their action was to disrupt fertilization not implantation. Another article continues the assertion that one of the most common EC types (Levonorgestrel/Plan B) has no effect on implantation. However, as Catholics (as did most people before IVF and recent political mumbo-jumbo), we believe that life begins at conception not implantation. Further review of journal articles yielded this one that clearly states that only people who believe “implantation or later events to be the beginning of pregnancy” consider this method to be non-abortive. Another article, questions the validity of the data used to verify whether Plan B acts pre- or post-implantation without even referencing (in the abstract) whether these studies even consider post-conception and pre-implantation actions.

Most/many studies discount the five to twelve days between fertilization to implantation. It is not a stretch to consider these studies flawed for neglecting this time period; therefore, it is impossible to separate the contraceptive from the abortive properties of Plan B (and other ECs) without further research. Even one of their own, James Trussell, admits the abortive effect must be mentioned to women when giving Plan B. Further, Dr. Trussell admits that for Plan B (or any EC) to be effective, it must have an effect after fertilization. At this point, there is no accurate widely available test for fertilization, although a fertilization chemical has been known since 1979. Common tests used to detect pregnancy are detecting implantation (hCG) hormones, again discounting the five to twelve days between fertilization and implantation.

Now for the morals… In 1968, 2000, 2008, and well, basically forever the Church’s official stance has been against both contraception and abortion. Every life that begins is God’s gift to the bearer. While in cases of rape and incest, it is common to think of the new life as a “punishment”; in reality, God has created something wonderful out of a horrible crime. It is widely believed that punishing a child for the sins of the father is wrong. Therefore, it is no stretch to think that terminating a pre-born child for the sin of the father is wrong as well.

The German bishops, in their ill-conceived notion of “kindness” for a woman impregnated by an attacker, draw a line that neither science nor morality can draw. Studies have not shown that emergency contraceptives only act prior to fertilization. Nor are there widely available reliable tests to determine fertilization, only implantation. Moral law is the same for all life, whether the result of rape, incest, fornication, marital love, marital infidelity, IVF, or any other mechanism. A new life begins when egg and sperm meet (fertilization). Intentionally terminating that life is against the moral code and natural law. When clarification of this media circus is made, I’m sure it will be buried under new Catholic controversy if it is even presented at all. Until then, I am confident that Christ’s Church on Earth remains the most steadfast protector of life from its very conception.

 

ADDENDUM: In researching this story I could have added this extra explanation:

A comment on Facebook mentioned that since 1999(?), the bishops’ statement has been that if ovulation and fertilization can be proven to have not occurred, emergency contraception is OK. This information is true-EXCEPT-it is almost impossible for medical science to prove without a doubt that no ovulation or fertilization has occurred or is likely to occur during the emergency contraceptives life span in the body. They can test for ovulation-yes-but since sperm cells can live up to a week in the female reproductive system, proving no ovulation at the time the drug is administered does NOT necessarily mean ovulation will not happen within that week. If ovulation occurs within the week life-span of the sperm cells, fertilization can occur. At this time, there is no test for fertilization that is widely-available or widely-used. The current pregnancy tests actually test for implantation. Implantation happens between 5-12 days AFTER fertilization/conception/creation of new life. One of the only ways, in my opinion and research, to have the best chance of knowing whether ovulation and/or fertilization is possible is if a woman uses NFP to chart her cycles. However, even though NFP has a thoroughly proven track record, occasionally “unplanned” conceptions happen even to experienced practitioners.

abortion and contraception are always immoral according to the Catholic Church.

About Erika

Erika V. is a thirty-something mother of two (with four saints in heaven). With a degree in molecular biology, she works for her state’s police crime lab; although her dream is to stay home with her children and homeschool them. Her newly converted husband is a sometime auto mechanic and primarily a stay-at-home dad. Passionate about pro-life issues and science, she is a survivor of breast cancer while pregnant. At 20 weeks pregnant with her daughter (pregnancy number six), she was diagnosed with BRCA1 stage II breast cancer. When local doctors we stumped with the diagnosis, she traveled to MDAnderson where chemotherapy on pregnant women has been done for over twenty years. After delivering her baby girl and undergoing more chemotherapy, Erika has had a whirlwind of surgeries to combat the cancer as well as the complications of cancer treatments. Three years and eight surgeries later, she continues to be passionate about pro-life endeavors, even winning the local Right to Life group’s Life Award and serving on their working board of directors. She authors two blogs, one a mommy blog Biology Brain-Simon Says and one a breast cancer while pregnant blog Erika’s Miracle Journey. Blog posts are often filled with pro-life references, including medical journal articles supporting the pro-life position. While there isn’t often time, she also enjoys horses, reading, gardening, and KY bourbon.

  • Mavis Hucker - How wonderfully you are handling all your problems … what a good example you are to others. My son is also a stay at home Dad, even though he graduated from law school.
    Would like to get your notification of posts by e-mail.
    May God grant many more blessings upon you and your family and may he heal you completely.March 2, 2013 – 11:53 amReplyCancel

  • Gil Garza - So called emergency contraception does indeed have 2 methods of action. If given just before or at mid-cycle peak of luteinizing hormone (LH) in a woman’s cycle, these medicines will stop ovulation. If given post luteinizing hormone surge, these medicines will prevent implantation. Obviously, as you have mentioned, giving these medicines to women after there luteinizing hormone (LH) surge would not be licit or morally acceptable.

    However, if there were a method of detecting were the woman was in her LH cycle, and there is, we would have the duty to defend the rape victim’s ovaries from a rapist’s sperm. This would be a just defense of the woman’s integrity. It would be just and licit to do so. Therefore it is just to use testing to ensure that ovulation is prevented and there is no possibility of an attacker’s sperm to cause fertilization.

    In fact, luteinizing hormone (LH) tests has been around for a while and they are quick, easy and much more common today than 10 years ago. It is a part of every standard GYN workup in women who have had difficulty achieving pregnancy. Luteinizing hormone is produced by the pituitary gland.

    The US Bishops produced a statement in 2001, Ethical and Religious Directives for Catholic Health Care Services saying: 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. (n. 36)March 2, 2013 – 3:59 pmReplyCancel

  • Mary - Gil hit the nail on the head. They do not test for fertilization but for possible ovulation (and also for an already-established pregnancy which would NOT be the result of rape, obviously). The fact that ovulation may occur in the next few days is precisely why plan b would be administered – to delay/prevent ovulation. Catholic hospitals in the US are already using this protocol for rape victims.March 3, 2013 – 8:06 amReplyCancel

  • Mary - So I think the question really is, how sure do they have to be that it will work as contraception and not as an abortifacient. Do they need to be 100% sure, morally speaking? Does double effect come into play? I think it’d be great if someone could explore those issues in a future post, finding out what moral theologians have to say.March 3, 2013 – 8:52 amReplyCancel

  • Erika - The only problem I have with both Gil’ and Mary’s statements is that ovulation tests are definitely not always accurate nor are they easy. The popular ovulation predictor kits must be repeated day after day to track the rise and subsequent fall of LH. The time of day these tests are performed can also give false negatives (ie if you test in the morning you get a negative, but you ovulate later that night). Even the blood tests used in fertility clinics that include progesterone, LH, follicle stimulating hormone, etc are not entirely accurate, plus many of them need to be repeated at least once to track the changes of the levels according to text-book levels. These textbook levels vary significantly between women and even sometimes between cycles. Ultrasounds to view developing follicles can be done, but sometimes there are several follicles present closely resembling ripening/fertile follicles. In addition, ultrasounds detecting ripening follicles must be done transvaginally, a further insult to the rape victim. :-/ Upon browsing fertility websites (including those about IVF), an almost direct quote is that the only guaranteed way to be sure ovulation has occurred is a vaginal ultrasound showing a growing embryo. Again, in my experience and based in my reading, the best way to know if a woman has or will be ovulating soon would be for her to track her cycles.

    I will look for more theologian opinions on this. If I find enough to create a second article, I will post it here. Otherwise, I may edit the post above or add to the comments here. My personal opinion is that the uncertainty of detecting ovulation renders any use of Plan B (or any emergency contraceptive) morally questionable if not outright ill-advised. However, I will continue to look for more information.March 3, 2013 – 8:17 pmReplyCancel

  • Allison H. - How I learn from your research and writing . . . thank you!March 4, 2013 – 7:48 pmReplyCancel

  • Gil Garza - Fr. Tad Pacholczyk, Ph.D who did his neuroscience doctoral work at Yale, postdoc at Harvard and is the Director of Education at the National Catholic BioEthics Center in Philly has a great article here:http://www.ncbcenter.org/page.aspx?pid=301March 4, 2013 – 10:13 pmReplyCancel

  • Erika - Gil, I read the article you linked but I’m a little concerned by the LH test that the good Father says detects ovulation. From my medical literature search, I’ve found that there is a significant margin of error in a LH blood test even over the course of several days, much less a single test. I respect the premise of the article and the conclusion based on the fallible information given, but I still feel that perhaps the medical certitude is overstated. As a Molecular Biology major and former Forensic Biologist, I know that sometimes non-scientists over simplify and give science more than its true weight. I will continue to investigate the science behind testing for ovulation and the morality of the statements made by the German bishops and others regarding emergency contraception. Thank you for the article!March 5, 2013 – 12:53 amReplyCancel

  • Susan M.. - If science considers the rape victim as a set of ovaries that can be defended from perpetrator sperm through the use of poisons that affect her whole body, then it is condoning a further objectification of that victim additional to the initial violation of the rape itself; such a deconstruction of the victim’s sexuality carries the implication that her body can be defended without regard to her soul. How shall we then proceed? Shall we privilege the defense of the woman’s ovaries above detecting and defending any life that occurs? Is the potentially present new life to be deemed completely unworthy of defense because of the enemy status of its mode of conception? In such a case things should become very confusing indeed at that point, I fear.March 6, 2013 – 9:50 pmReplyCancel

  • Matthew G - Erika: I want to first commend you on a wonderful blog and your keen insights. I came across your blog as I was reading about the German Bishop’s recent statement on emergency contraception. I am a Catholic, pro-life, NFP only physician that has both an office based practice as well as hospital based. I don’t directly work in our emergency department, but I am intimately involved with hospital affairs and am quite interested in this topic. This issue unfortunately comes up from time to time in our community hospital. We are part of a Christian health system but not Catholic. I have had the pleasure of meeting Fr. Tad and heard him present this topic as well as hearing other speakers at various Catholic Medical Association meetings. Unfortunately, I don’t think there is complete consensus on a protocol for rape situations, but what is in place is reasonable in my opinion. I appreciate your concern for the accuracy of LH testing and the possibility of false or inaccurate readings that could lead to harm to a possible new life. However, I think this position is making several assumptions. If emergency contraception is given after ovulation, this does not necessarily mean the new life will be harmed. Yes, it is possible but not certain. All the studies looking at this have been through observation of uterine lining, conception rates, intrauterine to outer uterine (ectopic) pregnancy ratio, etc. To the best of my knowledge, no studies have been done to definitely determine this (thank God because this would be immoral) but most of what we have gleaned has been observing secondarily to other studies, such as IVF studies. If we use your logic that since one cannot definitively know whether someone has ovulated or not, would this not exclude a vast array of other medical treatments and procedures? Things such as X-ray and CT scans, contrast dye, medications, gynecologic treatments all can have serious and/or lethal consequences to the unborn, but we routinely rely upon pregnancy tests (and I have seen both false positive and false negative tests) to determine whether or not to do testing. Granted, testing for ovulation (LH) and testing pregnancy are slightly different, but does not a pregnancy test imply a “yes” or “no” for ovulation? As with so many medical/ethical decisions, we never have objective moral certitude. The best that we can do is to be sure we at least have subjective moral certitude. And here is where the concept of the principle of double effect comes in. This principle consists of four conditions that must be satisfied before an act is morally permissible:
    1. The nature-of-the-act condition. The action must be either morally good or indifferent.
    2. The means-end condition. The bad effect must not be the means by which one achieves the good effect.
    3. The right-intention condition. The intention must be the achieving of only the good effect, with the bad effect being only an unintended side effect.
    4. The proportionality condition. The good effect must be at least equivalent in importance to the bad effect.

    Even among reputable and holy people, there is difference in interpretation of this principle. But using this as a guide, I think the protocol in place is ethically sound. I am by no means a moral scholar and would love to hear comments or critiques of my opinion. Again, thank you for your wonderful blogMarch 9, 2013 – 1:33 pmReplyCancel

    • Erika - Matthew,
      Thank you for your comment. I respect your opinion and the knowledge you have in medicine. As you mention, neither of us are the end-all-be-all holiest people. I respectfully disagree with almost the entire “double effect” principle behind contraceptives in any woman except a non-sexually active woman. I am in the process of further research and writing a blog post revisiting the Emergency Contraception issue. As a matter of fact, since there is so much material available, I will probably write 2 more: one that is primarily science & one that is primarily morals. In the meantime, I will take your opinion under advisement, but continue to investigate the true source of emergency contraception’s “success” rate. One key point I’m finding (and I think I mentioned in this post) is that the current medical “definition” on conception has changed from fertilization to implantation. I’ve read many of the journal articles about emergency contraception and most of them indicate there is no effect on implantation, but don’t mention anything about the 5-12 days between fertilization and implantation. That is problematic to me.

      You mention some risks to the unborn (perhaps not even implanted) baby for X-rays and other medical procedures. I find that a bit disingenuous because most of the medical procedures that are performed on pregnant women that can have negative effects on their unborn child are only done in a medical emergency or serious diagnosis of the mother. Even then, modifications are made to protect the unborn child from over-exposure. I know this first-hand as a woman who was diagnosed with breast cancer while 20 weeks pregnant. Throughout my treatment while pregnant, every effort was made to minimize my baby’s exposure to detrimental medications, procedure, and tests. For example, I had multiple mammograms after my diagnosis to give the doctors a better idea of the progress of my disease. During every single mammogram, I was shielded with at least two lead aprons. Instead of a CAT scan, I was given an MRI. My chemotherapy drugs, while the same drugs and dosages as my non-pregnant mother’s, were given to me over a period of three days instead of within three hours. I even had my excisional biopsy/lumpectomy performed under only minimal local anesthetic (much to my dismay). In addition to my experience mentioned above, I have always been asked prior to any type of x-ray and shielded even when there was no possibility of pregnancy. Prior to being given a unborn child endangering medication I have been pregnancy tested and/or asked if pregnancy was a possibility and/or told to avoid conception for a certain period of time. In most cases, there is an alternative to whatever harmful tests, procedures, and/or medications that can be given or there is such a medical necessity that the principle of double effect really does come into play.

      In contrast, while rape and the possibility of conceiving a child through a rape is a horrible circumstance, it is NOT a medical emergency that justifies the possible termination of a life (in my opinion). Conception via rape is statistically low. The fertile window for women is quite small (as you know as an NFP doctor). Rapists statistically are have a lower fertility than their non-criminal counterparts. Statistically almost half of pregnancies end in miscarriage. There have been studies showing all of the above. As a forensic biologist for almost 10 years, I’ve spent a lot of time behind the scenes of at least 800 rape cases. Many times the 72 hour window for emergency contraception’s use is already passed prior to the victim appearing at the hospital for an exam. Sadly, in addition, some percentage of rape cases are false charges. I have a lot of sympathy for rape victims, but I include the possibly conceived babies into my sympathy as well. While pregnancy due to rape is a difficult circumstance, it is not a medical emergency in most cases (my mother was a rape victim that kept her child). The alternative to knowingly putting an unborn on the chopping block is to carry the child to term. This alternative does not put anyone’s life in danger and is, overall, a short-term obstacle for the woman. Therefore, it seems most reasonable to me, emergency contraception that *may* disrupt a newly conceived baby is not a viable moral option even in cases of rape. Even if conception is statistically unlikely, there is no cause to put that life at risk. As a matter of fact, since conception is statistically unlikely, emergency contraception that only blocks conception, but has no effect on implantation or an implanted child, is really not all that necessary. If ovulation has not occurred, conception is unlikely WITHOUT emergency contraception. The same is true if a pregnancy test is positive; conception can’t occur, so why give EC? Actually, a doctor who often prescribes emergency contraception and has an association with the Guttenmacher Institute, makes some of these later points about there actual effect of EC. I’ll have to find that interview with him for his name & such.

      I apologize for writing so much. However, you can tell I am rather passionate about this issue. I have done and will continue to do research on the issue. I appreciate you taking the time to form your response to me. I will take what you’ve said into consideration and look for more research both scientific and moral. I am also grateful that you find this blog to be wonderful. We, at Catholic Sistas, pour our hearts and souls into our posts as we also constantly strive to grow in our Faith. Thank you for your comment and for reading our humble blog. God bless, ErikaMarch 9, 2013 – 11:17 pmReplyCancel

  • Matthew G - Erika:

    Thank you for your response. I appreciate your passion and sincerity and it very much inspires me. I look forward to your future contributions on emergency contraception. First, let me concede to you several points in your response. I certainly agree that the 5-12 days between fertilization and implantation is a very valid concern that is often overlooked and needs more consideration in this discussion. Also, I concede that there are likely many rape situations that are not truly emergencies and thus one could argue that the principle of double effect is not appropriate to apply. You write, “while rape and the possibility of conceiving a child through a rape is a horrible circumstance, it is NOT a medical emergency that justifies the possible termination of a life (in my opinion.” Although this is often true, it is not an absolute. Are you then arguing that a young women battling cancer that is on chemotherapy/radiation, etc ( I use this example with utmost respect to what you experienced and certainly admire your example) who is sexually assaulted with the possibility of pregnancy is not an emergency? Or what about a young women with severe seizure disorder that is taking topirimate and depakote, both known to be teratogenic and this is the only medicine that is effective, is sexually assaulted? Is this not an emergency? Or what about a women with severe autoimmune disease, or renal transplant, or severe cardiomyopathy? Although these situations would be few, they are nonetheless very valid as I see these types of patients frequently in my own practice. I would argue that potential pregnancy in these situations would drastically change the decision process and the principle of double effect would apply.

    You also write, “The alternative to knowingly putting an unborn on the chopping block is to carry the child to term. This alternative does not put anyone’s life in danger and is, overall, a short-term obstacle for the woman.” Really? I must admit I was little surprised to read this considering your personal experience with cancer and pregnancy. I can not imagine that you are arguing that your experience was just a “short-term obstacle” and “does not put anyone’s life in danger.” Your personal situation and with the various scenarios I described above show that any pregnancy can be difficult and truly self sacrificing for those who respect all life.

    You also write; “I respectfully disagree with almost the entire “double effect” principle behind contraceptives in any woman except a non-sexually active woman.” I am not splitting hairs but do you consider a person that is raped as sexually active? I guess from a purely anatomical, medical and functional aspect, you could say that the women is sexually active, but from a moral/spiritual perspective one could argue she is not. Again, I am not splitting hairs but just seeking clarification on your understanding of “sexually active.”

    Finally, you point out, and I am in total agreement with, the situations where there is a known pregnancy and all the numerous ways we can accommodate our practice habits and procedures to reduce the risk to the unborn child. However, this does not really address my point about the accuracy of pregnancy testing. You argue from the point of view from a known pregnancy but my point was about how as medical professionals, we daily work under the uncertainty of pregnancy tests and ovulation tests. For example, if a women is undergoing chemotherapy, certainly a pregnancy test is in order. What if she is 1-2 weeks pregnant and the pregnancy test is a false negative? Chemotherapy may start and at that point, we are putting this unborn child at risk. Again my point is not that we should not do these important treatments/tests etc. but it was to counter your argument that we can not rely upon LH tests to determine ovulation because of inaccuracy and the potential harm to an unborn child with emergency contraception. I guess another way to put it is that many don’t seem to bat an eyelash at the accuracy of pregnancy testing and other medical tests performed but then to strongly argue against using LH testing seems contradictory.

    As it is said, iron sharpens iron, and I think these robust discussions are very uplifting. I very much appreciate your comments because they help me to a better understanding of these critical issues. Thank you so very much,

    In Christ, Matthew GMarch 10, 2013 – 10:21 pmReplyCancel

    • Erika - Matthew,
      I think you’ve misconstrued my earlier response to you. First, I do not consider rape victims to be sexually active (unless they admit to being such). However, I also do not believe that one violent act should be countered with another violent act. Honestly, even though I suffered from gynecological issues with standard practice of contraceptive prescription, I never took them nor believed them to be useful (in addition to their propensity to increasing the risk of cancers). As a NFP doctor, you too probably do not prescribe contraceptives even to “treat” these gynecological issues in non-sexually active women. If contraceptives were to be used though, only women who are not sexually active are morally allowed to use them according to my understanding of Catholic moral law.

      Second, the women you mention would be truly unfortunate if they were victims of rape as they are already struggling with a difficult diagnosis. However, neither do I believe that even the “emergencies” you mention necessitate the use of a suspected chemical abortifacient like Emergency Contraception. When you mentioned the principle of double effect, the first requirement is that the action be morally neutral or good. Knowing that EC may act as an abortifacient negates this first requirement. In effect, the proposition of allowing the use of a known possible abortifacient for the purpose of “preventing” pregnancy in these struggling women would be similar to allowing these women to have outright abortions a few weeks or months later. In other words, the hypothetical condition the woman is suffering with (which is always problematic) does not negate the fact that as Catholics we respect ALL life regardless of the means of conception. If it did, would it not also advocate the later abortions in these same women? The issue at hand here is the unborn child being terminated not the woman’s hypothetical condition. It is possible to be entirely empathetic and sympathetic towards the woman with a difficult condition while still defending the (possible) unborn child within her womb.

      Third, I may shock you, but I did consider my pregnancy during my breast cancer as a short-term obstacle. Pregnancy is a finite “condition” — I knew when it would end. Therefore, even if I had not had the option of receiving treatment while pregnant, NEVER did I consider prematurely ending my pregnancy. In order for pregnancy to be truly self-sacrificing, the pregnancy must continue, not be terminated. I truly do not understand why you would be shocked by my belief as such. As a strong advocate for life and the Faith, it was my honor to humble myself to God’s will and be a witness to the true depth a mother’s love can have for her unborn child. While my life did change after my diagnosis and pregnancy, the same is true of every woman who is pregnant. When that new life becomes a squalling babe in arms, life is undeniably changed. However, the finite period of a pregnancy is only 9 months out of a lifetime. As a Catholic woman, I would spend countless 9 month periods of pregnancy/difficulty if I knew that life was truly being changed for the better for someone else (the unborn child). I’ve spent about 24 months of my life pregnant and although six of those months were not rewarded with earthly babies, I still believe firmly that those lives I held in my womb deepened my Faith and gave me special saints in Heaven (4 of them to be exact). The months I spent pregnant while going through chemotherapy showed the world that a Faithful servant can truly be self-sacrificing instead of sacrificing another. My life is not my own, nor is anyone who believes in God. So, my life was not in danger, nor was my daughter’s, unless I abandoned God and terminated His child. God had us in the palm of His hand. The same is true of any mother facing a difficult diagnosis while pregnant or a pregnancy while struggling with a difficult diagnosis. There are several Sistas who have suffered greatly throughout their pregnancies, from diseases that meant they shouldn’t conceive, from diseases diagnosed while pregnant, to severe and/or life threatening diseases caused by pregnancy.

      Finally, there is a HUGE difference in knowingly prescribing a medication suspected to have an abortifacient effect on a woman of unknown fertility in order to “prevent” her pregnancy (EC) and treating a woman with an unknown pregnancy according to her need for her diagnosis. The ONLY purpose of EC is to prevent pregnancy whether by preventing ovulation or interfering prior to implantation. Chemotherapy’s ONLY purpose is to “cure” cancer. This goes back to the principle of double effect. In the former, the action is neither morally neutral or good. In the latter, the action is either morally neutral or good. The UNINTENDED consequence of the latter may be a lost innocent. However, the intended consequence of the former is to “prevent” that innocent from being. It should not be considered contradictory to oppose the former, but not the latter. They are entirely different situations. In the former, the ONLY purpose of the drug is to disrupt at some point the natural process of conception and implantation. On the other hand, in the latter, the ONLY purpose of the drug is to treat the mother’s condition.

      The Bishops concluded that only if EC ONLY acts as an anti-ovulation or pre-conception contraceptive is it morally licit. Since current medicine does not have a drug that acts that way, EC should not be given without knowledge of the woman’s ovulatory stage. The only licit way to use EC is to prove the woman is pre-ovulatory. However, the test(s) that prove ovulatory phase is not at this time a medical certainty or of sufficient accuracy. Perhaps the answer is for pregnancy tests and/or ovulation tests to be improved to a point where they are accurate and efficient. Another answer is to value life so highly that violent crimes are reduced and the question of what to do in cases of rape becomes less prevalent. Until then, I advocate the more cautious approach as the moral approach.

      I respect your knowledge as a physician and a Catholic. However, as you say, iron sharpens iron. I enjoy the discussion between us as it is stretching both of our minds and souls. Thank you.

      God bless,
      ErikaMarch 11, 2013 – 1:09 pmReplyCancel

  • Matthew G - Your presentation and experience of this topic encourages me and definitely causes me to pause and reflect. As with many moral positions, I am not totally entrenched in the position of accepting emergency contraception. I think your research bears much fruit as to why this is not something to consider lightly and it encourages me to re think this matter. As like you, there is a part of me that finds acceptance of ANY contraception in the name of the Catholic faith very distressing. The culture is certainly not supporting the Catholic church and it would not be unthinkable that the media would turn this against us. People reading headlines could casually associate the acceptance of contraception with the Church. This is certainly a slippery slope and one would wonder if this could open the door to other situations to justify the use of EC. Essentially, we would be revisiting the 1930’s and the Anglican church scenario of opening the floodgates to the acceptance of contraception. I can easily see how a broad acceptance of EC would extrapolate to promote even further rape, just in the same way the contraceptive mentality in our culture has lead to abortion. If one can have casual sex with the ability to prevent pregnancy (at least in theory) with the use of contraception, then certainly in the case of forced sex (rape), then EC can be used to prevent pregnancy. And you already pointed out that some cases of rape are not really rape. This would be incredibly sensitive and difficult to tease out of any potential rape situation.

    For those that don’t accept “slippery slope” arguments, we know that this has been well laid out in Pope Paul’s encyclical, Humanae Vitae, and has essentially come true. On a related side note, I highly encourage the readers of this blog to re-read this courageous letter in light of the present day debate on the Obama administration and the healthcare mandate. Taken from HV:

    ” Who will prevent public authorities from favoring those contraceptive methods which they consider more effective? Should they regard this as necessary, THEY MAY IMPOSE THEIR USE ON EVERYONE (my emphasis.) It could well happen, therefore, that when people, either individually or in family or social life, experience the inherent difficulties of the divine law and are determined to avoid them, THEY MAY GIVE INTO THE HANDS OF PUBLIC AUTHORITIES THE POWER (my emphasis) to intervene in the most personal and intimate responsibility of husband and wife.”

    I must admit that when I re-read the above paragraph, I nearly dropped out of my chair. My admiration and respect for Pope Paul VI has never been greater, but then again, we should not be surprised that God is working through the office of Peter as He has for thousands of years.

    Again Erika, I thank you for your courageous witness to this topic. I suspect that many faithful Catholics/Christians are so far enmeshed in the culture, that it is difficult to stand back and looked at this through the eyes of the Church.

    In Christ, Matthew GMarch 11, 2013 – 7:41 amReplyCancel

    • Erika - I think we are eye-to-eye after reading this comment, Matthew. Thank you for adding the quotation from Pope Paul VI’s encyclical. The situation he spoke of is, as we speak, becoming the policy. Forcing all to pay for and provide contraceptives (whether regular or “emergency”), abortions, sterilizations, etc via ObamaCare is a drastic step toward making this a reality. Other prophecies of religious leaders acceptance of such and further leading the people astray is also a reality. We must do our utmost to support what is moral and not what is most expedient or politically correct. I pray daily for all people to follow this difficult path.

      God bless,
      ErikaMarch 11, 2013 – 1:17 pmReplyCancel

  • Take Home Lessons from the Furor over Plan B - Truth and Charity Forum - […] her teaching. Pro-lifers claimed the bishops “caved under intense media pressure” and bloggers criticized the German bishops as having “an ill-conceived notion of ‘kindness.’” Confusion has […]April 16, 2013 – 7:30 amReplyCancel

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