Wednesday, November 07, 2007

"If There's a Doubt of Fact, Don't Act"

Chilean and US Catholic Bishops go Opposite Ways on Morning After Pill

FatherChristopher Kubat, M.D, who heads Catholic Charities in diocese of Lincoln states, "If there's doubt of fact, you don't act."

By John-Henry Westen

SANTIAGO, November 5, 2007 ( - There is a marked difference between the approach to the morning after pill by Catholic Bishops in the United States and their Chilean counterparts. Following Pope Benedict XVI's advice to pharmacists last week which called on them to refuse to dispense drugs "that have the goal of preventing the implantation of the embryo," the Bishops of Chile have called on their government to allow pharmacists the right to conscientious objection regarding the morning after pill. In their bid to the Chilean government however, the Secretary General of the Chilean Bishops Conference noted that on principal drugs may not be given which have even a slight chance of procuring an abortion. Arguing for a pharmacists right to refuse to dispense the morning after pill, Bishop Cristián Contreras said, "This is a matter of human life. Whenever there is a minimum doubt of the existence of human life the safest options must be taken". In this discussion "we must keep in mind that freedom is an ample concept and in this sense pharmacists have every right to refuse the sell the pill for reasons of conscious objection," the Bishop underlined. For many US Bishops however, there has been a general acceptance of the use of the morning after pill (in cases of rape), precisely because of a supposed minimal chance of causing an abortion as opposed. The Bishops of Connecticut, Wisconsin, Massachusetts, Colorado, New York, California and Washington also offer so-called 'emergency contraception' to some rape victims with the approval of local Catholic bishops. Some of the Bishops require only a pregnancy test to administer the drugs, which would only rule out a pregnancy which occurred prior to a rape since the morning after pill is to be taken within 72 hours after intercourse, and pregnancy tests only register positively after implantation - a process that can take up to a week. Other US Bishops require an ovulation test prior to administration of the drug, thus hoping to avoid the pill's abortifacient effect which prevents the implantation of an embryo. However, ovulation tests are not exact and the morning after pill is also not known to be foolproof in halting ovulation. Thus there remains a chance, however slight, of causing an abortion with the use of the morning after pill even after an ovulation test is done.But while the Chilean Bishops see that very slight chance as necessitating not administering the drug, many of their US counterparts under the advice of the Catholic Health Association have deemed it a green light since, suggest the ethicists, while there is not absolute certainty that an abortion will not occur, there is "moral certainty".That line of argument is problematic for many Catholic physicians. As LifeSite has previously reported, the Catholic Medical Association opposes outright the administration of the morning after pill. The Pontifical Academy for Life ruled similarly in 2000.

A medical doctor, turned Catholic priest and bioethics expert, spoke in Wisconsin on the subject last month. Father Christopher Kubat, M.D, who heads Catholic Charities in the diocese of Lincoln, spoke against the use of Plan B in Catholic hospitals recalling the moral principle: "If there's doubt of fact, you don't act."Regarding 'moral certainty', Fr. Kubat had this to say: "If we are morally certain about anything, it is that the risk of an abortion using these drugs is significant based on the scientific data presented. That's what we can be morally certain of if we want to talk about moral certainty." Catholic Times reporter Franz Klein also quotes Fr. Kubat saying: "If you take an honest look at the scientific data, reliable testing" to establish absolute certitude "does not exist."

Father Kubat added. "But now, unfortunately, most hospitals regularly dispense emergency contraception, including Catholic hospitals."The president of the Catholic Bishops' Conference of Chile, Bishop Alejandro Goic of the diocese of Rancagua held a press conference at which he appealed to the government not to sanction pharmacies which refuse to dispense the morning after pill. "I believe there exists a legitimate right to conscious objection which must be respected. There can be no intolerance in the face of a conscious objection to promoting the use of a pill which could cause abortion," he said.

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