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Some morning after pills okayed by German bishops

COLOGNE (SE): A statement allowing the use of what is popularly known as the morning after pill to be administered in Catholic hospitals in the case of rape was issued by the German Bishops’ Conference on February 22.

The statement says that the bishops’ decision was unanimous. reported on February 4 that what the media interpreted at that time as an official authorisation given by Joachim Cardinal Meisner, from Cologne in Germany, for Catholic hospitals to administer the medication to rape  victims, sparked widespread discussion over the function of the drug, which is popularly known as Plan B.

The archbishop of Cologne made the announcement when reports emerged that a rape victim had been refused access to the pill by two Catholic hospitals in the diocese.

The cardinal argued that because the function of the drug is to prevent fertilisation, rather than acting as an abortifacient, it should be acceptable in the circumstances of a rape. pointed out that the practice is followed in some Catholic hospitals in the United States of America (US).

According to the US Food and Drug Administration the function of the morning after pill is to make it impossible for a fertilised egg to become implanted in the womb, consequently inducing an abortion.

However, some researchers disagree, saying that the contraceptive does not affect a fertilised egg.

The president of the World Federation of Catholic Medical Associations, José Simon Castellvi, told EWTN News on February 7 that he believes that the cardinal’s words are being manipulated.

EWTN News reported Castellvi as saying that scientists may have given him inaccurate information about the drug.

Cardinal Meisner told the media on January 22 that he was ashamed that a young woman claiming that she had been drugged and raped had been refused admission to two Catholic hospitals because they said that the prescribed treatment was use of Plan B.

He subsequently met with medical experts who told him that latest research indicates that the drug does not have anti-implantation effects.

In a January 31 statement, Cardinal Meisner followed up his initial statement saying, “If a medication that hinders conception is used after a rape with the purpose of avoiding fertilisation, then that is acceptable in my view.”

EWTN News reports that his statement was interpreted by the media as giving permission for Catholic hospitals to go ahead and dispense the Plan B drug to rape victims.

However, Castellvi explained that the manufacturer of the morning-after pill says that the drug may prevent an embryo from implanting on the uterine wall.

“So we cannot accept it, since even a microscope human embryo is a person with rights, dignity and a child of God,” the doctor said, adding that the morning after pill works as an anti-implantation product in about 70 per cent of cases where the woman is fertile.

Vicky Thorn, from Project Rachel, told Catholic News Service on February 22 that she does not believe that there is a drug that will not affect implantation. “I do not believe there is one because all the research I have done on this shows that the missing piece is knowing when ovulation happened,” she said.

The matter was then put on the agenda for the plenary gathering of the German Bishops’ Conference, which met mid-February.

The February 22 statement from the bishops says that on the previous day, the decision was made at their plenary meeting to allow Catholic hospitals to use the morning after pill, or other contraception, in rape cases, on the condition that the drug is a contraceptive rather than an abortifacient.

They said, “It must have a preventative and not an abortive effect. Medical and pharmaceutical methods which result in the death of the embryo may not be used.”

Catholic News Agency reported that Karl Cardinal Lehmann, the president of Commission for Doctrine and Faith of the bishops’ conference, said that the decision had been made on the basis of scientific finding on the availability of new compounds with modified effect.”

That means that that there is no change to the Church ban on what is called the abortion pill, which is derived from the drug mifepristone or RU-486, which is marketed under the names of Migegyne or Mifeprex.

Reuters reported that a lay movement in Germany, Wir sind Kirche (We are the Church), claims that the decision is prompted by fear of losing state subsidies for Catholic hospitals, which account for about 25 per cent of all hospitals in Germany.

Following in the footsteps of the German bishops, the Swiss Bishops’ Conference has since given its blessing to the pill.

Some Catholic hospitals in the United States of America have been following the practice for some time.

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