The Hartford Courant, September 27, 2007
By CHRISTOPHER KEATING
In a major softening of their position, the state's Catholic bishops announced today that Catholic hospitals would comply with a new law that takes effect Monday that requires them to dispense emergency contraceptive pills to rape victims.
The Catholic church had lobbied strongly against the proposal at the state Capitol for more than one year, and some insiders believed the Church might file a lawsuit to block the law. Church officials, though, had said only that they were considering their options and never said that they would file a suit.
"The Bishops and other Catholic health care leaders believe that this law is seriously flawed, but not sufficiently to bar compliance with it at the present time,'' the bishops said in a statement. "We continue to believe this law should be changed.''
The bishops, however, said it is sufficient to require a pregnancy test before the emergency contraceptive is administered to the rape victim. The pregnancy test and an ovulation test had been at the center of the controversy as the legislature debated the bill.
"The administration of Plan B pills in this instance cannot be judged to be the commission of an abortion because of such doubt about how Plan B pills and similar drugs work and because of the current impossibility of knowing from the ovulation test whether a new life is present,'' the statement said. "To administer Plan B pills without an ovulation test is not an intrinsically evil act.''
After extended debate, the legislature passed the bill by bipartisan, veto-proof margins in both chambers. The measure passed in the state House of Representatives by 113 to 36 and by 32 to 3 in the Senate. Republican Gov. M. Jodi Rell then signed the bill into law.
While the Catholic hospitals were at the forefront of the debate, many non-Catholic hospitals also have not had consistent policies on dispensing the Plan B oral contraceptive. Legislators and advocates said that rape victims were denied the contraceptive at various times last year at 18 of the state's 31 hospitals. Overall, 53 rape victims who were accompanied by crisis counselors to various hospitals last year either received no medication at all or did not receive the full dosage.
Some received a prescription for emergency contraception rather than the actual dosage.
The bishops stated that the issue could be revisited in the future.
"If it becomes clear that Plan B pills would lead to an early chemical abortion in some instances, this matter would have to be reopened,'' the statement said.
Copyright © 2007, The Hartford Courant
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