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September 28, 2007

Comments

Esau

I want to apply the Deerhunter Principle: If you're out in the woods hunting, you cannot open fire if the result is reasonably foreseen to involve the possible death of a human.


With all great respect for J.A., I respectfully disagree --

That's similar to saying you cannot attack a hostile enemy's territory if it is reasonably foreseen to involve the possible deaths of innocent human beings; which we know is acceptable given a just war.

Publius

Specifically, why is contraception allowed after rape (since it's sex without the proper intent etc etc) but is NOT permitted after casual, recreational sex that also lacks the proper intent?

Well, in the latter case the woman intends to have sex, even if her intent isn't proper. In the former case she intends not to have sex but is violently forced to do so against her will, sometimes with the very motivation of forcing her to conceive a child.

Does it make the least bit of sense for the woman to be required to say with her body, "I don't want any part of you, except your fertility"? She bloody well doesn't want her rapists fertility any more than any other part of him! Nor is there any unitive element to keep bonded to the procreative as there's nothing unitive about being used 100% purely as a thing (something even the most exploitive consensual sex doesn't accomplish).

AnnonyMouse

Our local catholic hospital has just recently (2004) opened back its' maternity wing b/c they refused to offer any abortions or "things" resulting in one.
It seems pretty cut and dry to me.
Plan B does a lot of things including abortion.
Jimmy, have you read any of Judi Brown's stuff on Plan B and what it does?

mariadevotee

And how is this different from the Amnesty International position on abortion after rape? Seems like the same to me.

SDG

That's similar to saying you cannot attack a hostile enemy's territory if it is reasonably foreseen to involve the possible deaths of innocent human beings; which we know is acceptable given a just war.

Similar, except different, and not really the same at all.

A just war provides a proportionate rationale for accepting the unwilled but foreseen deaths of innocent human beings as an acceptable consequence. Deer hunting does not provide a similar rationale for accepting the possibility of shooting a fellow hunter. Nor is it acceptable to accept the abortion of a fetus even in the case of rape. I'm sorry, Esau, but you just don't get how double effect works in Catholic moral theology.

And how is this different from the Amnesty International position on abortion after rape? Seems like the same to me.

The difference, so the argument would go, is that what the CT bishops are allowing at this time is at the very least most often not going to result in abortion, and that the good of preventing the rape-pregnancy justifies the (hopefully tiny) risk of induced abortion. I'm not saying I buy that, but that's how the argument would go.

Policraticus

Jimmy,

This is perhaps the most clear, substantive, helpful and thoughtful post you have ever written. Bravo. Gave it a link in my own comments on the matter.

SDG

Policraticus: Read your blog post. One comment: Even when you actually have something nice to say, you have to couch it with a condescending put-down? What on earth is wrong with you?

Different

As I mentioned before, the situation is really very similar to a woman who uses a hormonal birth control to treat a legitimate medical problem. The act is not immoral because the pill is taken with the contraceptive aspect as an unintended consequence. Fr. Vincent Serpa among other theologians has written that a married woman in this circumstance is NOT obligated to abstain from marital relations even though it could result in a miscarriage from the side effect of her medication.

Now, with Plan B, we have the same type of thing. The act of administering the pill is moral because it is repelling the unjust aggressor. I would say even if we KNOW that the Plan B medication could cause a miscarriage as a side effect, that is still permissible (just as it is in the instance above). If as a result of attempting to kill her aggressor's sperm, a newly formed child is miscarried, that is unfortunate but it is NOT a moral evil. This is a classic case of the principle of double effect and it passes.

Policraticus

SDG,

To what are you referring?

Mary

And how is this different from the Amnesty International position on abortion after rape?

Contraception isn't abortion.

Even in situations where they are both definitely sinful, they aren't the same.

AnnonyMouse

"Fr. Vincent Serpa among other theologians has written that a married woman in this circumstance is NOT obligated to abstain from marital relations even though it could result in a miscarriage from the side effect of her medication"
Can you supply a source for this that Fr. Serpa said? I believe that IF you have to take the pill for medical reasons, you are to abstain DURING your fertile time or about that time when you would have ovulated.

Different

Here is what Fr. Serpa says:

"The use of the pill for medical reasons may cause an UNintended miscarriage. Women often have unintended miscarriages—sometimes without even knowing it. It is only miscarriages that are INTENDED that the Church considers immoral. The Church never allows the pill to be used as an abortifacient. But it does allow the use of the pill for medical reasons with the possiblity of producing an unintended miscarriage—without obliging the couple to abstain from sexual relations during that time."

http://forums.catholic.com/showthread.php?t=4618

I think this is VERY applicable to the situation with Plan B. Even if we know that the Plan B can cause miscarriages, it can still be used so long as it is intended to kill the aggressors sperm and not to procure an abortion.

Mary

If as a result of attempting to kill her aggressor's sperm, a newly formed child is miscarried, that is unfortunate but it is NOT a moral evil. This is a classic case of the principle of double effect and it passes.

Double effect only applies if the good end that is intended is as important as the evil consequence that is accepted.

SDG

Policraticus: Most of Jimmy's regular readers aren't caught by surprise when Jimmy's posts show his characteristic balance. You can't mean to say that it didn't occur to you that your expression of surprise would read as a slight?

Double effect only applies if the good end that is intended is as important as the evil consequence that is accepted.

True, but you do have to take into account the comparative probability of the good effect versus the evil effect.

To give an extreme example, if I drive to Mass every Sunday rather than walk, I gain the good effect of getting to Mass faster, but I also incur a possibility, however slight, that I might get into an accident and injure someone, or even one of my own family, in a way far outweighing the good of getting to Mass faster. Accidents are one of the possible evil side effects of driving, but we accept that possibility because it is comparatively remote in relation to the reliable good effects.

A more serious variant: A 55mph speed limit results in fewer accidents and fewer deaths than a 65mph speed limit. For any given trip, the benefits of getting to one's destination 10mph faster would certainly not outweigh an accidental death. Yet we accept faster speed limits because the comparatively lesser good is reliably delivered and the comparatively graver evil occurs only infrequently.

On similar principles, if a Plan B contraceptive induced abortions in a tiny fraction of cases, but the vast majority of the time it worked by preventing conception, it would seem a reasonable argument that in cases such as rape the good of preventing rape-pregnancy could be proportionate to the comparatively minor risk of induced abortion. (Obviously, that's a very big "if" -- I'm speaking hypothetically.)

Charles Shurman

Deer hunting does not provide a similar rationale for accepting the possibility of shooting a fellow hunter.

Obviously, protecting oneself from a rapist's sperm is not deer hunting. Is it war?

SDG

Obviously, protecting oneself from a rapist's sperm is not deer hunting. Is it war?

It is an attack, an illegitimate invasion. It threatens to bring about a violation of one of the most basic human rights, the right to be conceived and born through an act of conjugal love. I think it is reasonable to apply self-defense principles.

LCB

The debate is not about Plan B in general for a rape victim outside ovulation with the purpose of preventing ovulation, there isn't a whole lot of disagreement on that.

The debate is about using Plan B without checking for ovulation, or using Plan B despite ovulation-- knowing that there is at least a possibility of killing a baby. In those murky situations is where this question lies.

If others think I'm incorrect, please correct me, since I may not be understanding the actual issue.

That being said-- the entire purpose of using Plan B, in these situations, is to prevent ovulation. To use Plan B when a person IS ovulating, or to refuse to allow checks for ovulation (which is what this law does) is to do only one thing.

That one thing is to INTENTIONALLY seek out the evil of causing a miscariage during certain circumstances. Double effect doesn't apply when the good caused and the bad caused are the same thing.

That being said, SDG, I don't see how self-defense principles apply in anyway.

Joe Meakin

"Among the Greek ecclesiastical writers, Athenagoras records that Christians consider as murderesses women who have recourse to abortifacient medicines, because children, even if they are still in their mother's womb, "are already under the protection of Divine Providence."

John Paul II, Evangelium Vitae (sec. 61) quoting from Apologia on behalf of Christians

More recent (h/t Michaelus posting in the Curt Jester blog):

""Consequently, from the ethical standpoint the same absolute unlawfulness of abortifacient procedures also applies to distributing, prescribing and taking the morning-after pill. All who, whether sharing the intention or not, directly co-operate with this procedure are also morally responsible for it."

Statement from the pontifical Academy for Life, 10/31/2000 via the Vatican website

Given the intentional ignorance regarding the law's ovulation test restriction and the manufacturer's declaration of Plan B's abortifacient properties, can the double effect argument be upheld in this question?

John

I wonder if it's now supposedly OK why did they so vigorously oppose it in the first place?

Augustine

Where's Bp. Wenski to mobilize public opinion? Oh, well, Judas Iscariot was the first bishop to sell the Christ to appease the powers at be...

Ed Peters

Esau, you have missed the point. Quite.

Ed Peters

Oh, I didn't see SDG's good reply. Didn't mean to pile up on ole Esau. There are other ways to respond besides SDG's but they end up the same place.

I can assure you, firing into a rustling bush that might have a deer, but did have a human being, is always an evil action (if only the evil of negligence, though I think more akin to reckless) and deserves punishment.

If I read the CONN bishops arightly, their stance permitting this action when "it might be killing a human being and it might not be" is incomprehensible.

matt

THere is another problem here, which is secondary to the morality. If the Bishops allow the administration of Plan B under pressure from the state we are entering onto a very slippery slope. The Church must remain independant of the state even at the expense of persecution, and even if there is harm to her temporal mission in a particular area. Better that all Catholic hospitals be closed then to consent to an evil being committed. If anyone doubts that the government has a legitimate interest in requiring the Church to bow down is fooling themselves. This is clearly the advancement of an agenda, and it's not compassion for women.

God Bless,

Matt

Victoria

Jimmy speaks of sloppy translations of encyclicals. Here is one from Evangelium Vitae (99) on the fate of aborted infants which contradicts the not only the Latin version but the Catechism para 1216 and the most recent document released The Hope of Salvation For Infants Who Die Without Being Baptised 101 and 102.

http://www.vatican.va/edocs/ENG0141/__P10.HTM
The Father of mercies is ready to give you his forgiveness and his peace in the Sacrament of Reconciliation. You will come to understand that nothing is definitively lost and you will also be able to ask forgiveness from your child, who is now living in the Lord

http://www.vatican.va/holy_father/john_paul_ii/encyclicals/documents/hf_jp-ii_enc_25031995_evangelium-vitae_lt.html

Pater vos exspectat ut veniam vobis offerat et pacem in Sacramento Reconciliationis. Infantem autem vestrum potestis Eidem Patri Eiusque misericordiae cum spe committere.

Faithful to the Latin translation
http://www.vatican.va/holy_father/john_paul_ii/encyclicals/documents/hf_jp-ii_enc_25031995_evangelium-vitae_en.html

The Father of mercies is ready to give you his forgiveness and his peace in the Sacrament of Reconciliation. To the same Father and his mercy you can with sure hope entrust your child.


Sharon

I have heard a number of times but have never been able to nail it down that nuns have received permission to use contraception when they were in a war zone. Is this just an urban myth?

Phil W.

Victoria,

The words "who is living in the Lord" were in the original document. They were later changed in the official version published in Acta Apostolicae Sedis.

Karen

Bravo, Jimmy. I think you're wholly on the track with this. I am not sure as to why you can't get behind your explanation and support it, though your wanting to apply the Deer Hunter principle makes sense when it comes to the possibility of actual abortion.

As to:

Specifically, why is contraception allowed after rape (since it's sex without the proper intent etc etc) but is NOT permitted after casual, recreational sex that also lacks the proper intent?

Rape is a mere perversion of the real thing--the conjugal act of which Humanae Vitae speaks--and so is fornication. But the justification for delaying ovulation in cases of rape in cases of fornication is not applicable to the situation of fornication. As with cases of contraception within marriage, a culture of death, willfully abusive mentality is present in cases of fornication. The key distinction in cases of rape would seem to be this: Delaying ovulation and other such non-abortifacient procedures do not remotely stem from a culture of death mentality at all, but rather, stem solely from the desire--or imperative-- to prevent further abuse of the reproductive faculties.

But fornication abuses the reproductive faculties too, right? Right. So would preventing further abuse of these faculties then mitigate the sin of fornication? No, because a culture of death mentality is present in this case, besides just the abuse of the reproductive faculty. These elements are not present in the case of a rape victim delaying ovulation. Rather, it's all about the "sex as an end in itself" mentality, and the willingness to abuse the reproductive faculty--components which do not even remotely apply to a rape victim's situation. Apples and oranges. A rape victim is preventing further abuse while fornicators are willingly abusing sex. A rape victim isn't motivated to delay ovulation by a culture of death mentality, while contracepting fornicators are. That's why contraception + fornication is still an evil which cannot mitigate the circumstances, let alone be condoned.

So would avoiding contraception in cases of fornication then mitigate the sin of fornication, or even be the right thing to do? We cannot say this either, because the Church also clearly teaches children's rights to be conceived within marriage.

The truth seems, as I see it anyway, that idiomatically speaking, they're "damned if they do" use contraception, but also "damned if they don't". It's not even a matter of one case compounding a sin and not the other, because the sin of fornication will be compounded whether one uses contraception (corroborates the culture of death mentality) or doesn't (risks infringing on a child's right to be born within wedlock).

To say that fornicators should be open to children out of wedlock, if they're going to have sex anyway, seems very contrary to what the Church teaches about children's rights to be conceived in wedlock. Contraception would still still seem to be wrong, but in the unique case of fornication, it is wrong on the single count of its corroboration of a culture of death mentality by cheapening the sex act, by treating fertility as a "disorder" to be remedied, willfully treating the reproductive faculty as something to be abused, by entertaining the notion of sex as an end in itself. It's not wrong, however, because fornicators, should be open to children in respecting their fertility, as married couples are asked to be when they let nature take its course during a conjugal act. It's logically absurd, given other teaching, to say that fornicators need be open to children if they're going to have sex. So the reasoning behind the sinfulness of contraception in cases of fornication and in cases of a conjugal act are very similar, but not purely identical.

That's why the notion of compounding sin by using contraception in the case of fornication might just be moot--BOTH scenarios seem to compound the inherent severity of the root sin, fornication. Because it's wrong to cheapen sex, and also wrong to risk children out of wedlock. So in the end, it's all equalized, that I can see.

Karen

I think the distinction made in the Latin version of Humanae Vitae points to a critical lesson of which we should all be aware. It is brilliant that this distinction is made. We need to remember that the Church speaks in terms of ideals, and that Her use of certain words isn't going to always parallel vernacular understanding and usage, or even the technical, clinical definitions. We can see this where "conjugal relations" was translated into just "sexual relations", and how this mistake promotes misunderstanding. We saw it happen when the whole "perfidis" issue got dredged up recently, when "perfidis" was assumed to mean "perfidious" in the sense of "treacherous", when that wasn't the connotation we were meant to understand.

She is very specific. Conjugal relations are the ideal--they are TRUE sex. That's because they're the only proper form of sex, in order with God's design. Anything that is not a pure, consensual, conjugal relation is no more than a perversion, a mere shadow of the real thing. It can only be considered "sex" in the vernacular sense. But by God's design, it just isn't the real thing, and is not really sex. God says what "sex" really is. Perversions don't redefine "sex".

The care taken, is striking. We need to take care to think about where our idealistic Church is coming from, and recognize that we speak differently in every day casual talk, when trying to understand the teachings.

When we don't take this idealism into account, we run the risk of applying teachings where they don't apply. We run the risk of saying that something is contraception and that Church teaching applies in situations where it does not, e.g. cleaning a rape victim, delaying ovulation, because we're going by clinical definitions where the Church isn't. We also use terms like "oral sex", "a*** sex" (I don't want to be more graphic than I have to in making my point)--when the fact is, those are perversions, not true sex.

When you understand that fornication is therefore, by virtue of not being proper sex in order with God's design, not REAL sex, and neither is rape, then it is easier to understand why clinically contraceptive measures take on a whole new light than they do within proper, marital situations. In one case, rape, there is a contraceptive mentality at all, or a conjugal act, both of which seem necessary for the application of Church teaching on what She calls "contraception", outside of its clinicallycorrect definition. There's more to contraception than just the clinical definition of contraception which some assume to be sufficient, with no other components to complicate the issue. In another case, fornication, the use of artificial contraception is wrong, but not for the reason that fornicators are also mandated to be open to conceiving children out of wedlock, like married couples are.

Wording is important, and so is the fact that the Church's wording--as guided by the Holy Spirit--is extremely careful in that terminology is used in an idealistic way, not a clinical way or in the way society assumes certain connotations in common vernacular. For example, is sodomy "contraceptive"? It's really moot, because sodomy isn't really "sex" in the first place. It's an abuse of the body, but just because we're habituated to referring as oral and a*** sex as "sex", doesn't actually make it so. It fails to meet the criteria of the ideal--what the Church considers to be actual sex.

Someone here briefly mentioned a saint here, about a year ago, whose theology centered upon these notions of ideals. It really got my attention, but now I no longer remember the saint's name, or where the post was. Can anyone remember and tell me?

Karen
In one case, rape, there is a contraceptive mentality at all, or a conjugal act, both of which seem necessary for the application of Church teaching on what She calls "contraception", outside of its clinicallycorrect definition.

Should have been,

In one case, rape, there is no contraceptive mentality at all, or a conjugal act, both of which seem necessary for the application of Church teaching on what She calls "contraception", outside of its clinicallycorrect definition.

And

It's an abuse of the body, but just because we're habituated to referring as oral and a*** sex as "sex", doesn't actually make it so.

Should have been:

It's an abuse of the body, but just because we're habituated to referring to oral and a*** sex as "sex", doesn't actually make it so.

Typo central today, sorry! Wish Typepad could let us edit comments.

SDG

LCB: That being said-- the entire purpose of using Plan B, in these situations, is to prevent ovulation. To use Plan B when a person IS ovulating, or to refuse to allow checks for ovulation (which is what this law does) is to do only one thing.

That one thing is to INTENTIONALLY seek out the evil of causing a miscariage during certain circumstances. Double effect doesn't apply when the good caused and the bad caused are the same thing.

Your last comment is correct, but I have one caveat.

I agree that the law itself deliberately seeks to blur the issue between contraception and abortion and prevent Catholic hospitals from distinguishing between the two. The law is thus an evil law.

Having said that, if we assume (and again, that's a big "if") that Plan B works in a substantial majority of cases by preventing conception, and causes abortions only in a small minority of cases, then under the moral ambiguity wrongly imposed by this evil law, it would seem Catholic hospitals have a choice either to help to protect most rape victims from a rapist's sperm even though this will unavoidably mean in some cases unknowingly inducing abortion, or to refuse to help most rape victims in order to avoid unknowingly inducing abortion in a small number of cases.

In that case (again, assuming that big "if"), it seems at least possible to me to adapt Esau's collateral-damage analogy in a way that arguably could apply.

In war, you drop bombs on structures that you believe probably contain enemy combatants, even though you know that at least some of the time your intelligence is faulty and the structures could house only innocent civilians. Obviously, if you could do a test to determine whether the occupants of the structure were enemy combatants or innocent civilians, you would know which structures to bomb and which not to.

Now, if you could do such a test, but were prevented from doing so for political reasons, that obviously would be a great evil, since such a policy would prevent you from distinguishing between legitimate targets and innocent civilians. However, even under such circumstances, you would only be back where you started from, knowing that you have to bomb structures that you believe probably contain enemy combatants, even though at least some of the time this will mean killing innocent civilians.

Similarly, under the evil circumstances wrongly imposed by this evil law, it seems at least arguable to me -- again with the "if" -- that it could be legitimate to administer Plan B to a woman where there is a substantially greater probability that you will help her by preventing conception, weighed against a substantially smaller probability that you may inadvertently induce abortion.

LCB: That being said, SDG, I don't see how self-defense principles apply in anyway.

If you reread my post, you will see that I was responding to a question specifically about a woman protecting herself against a rapist's sperm. I did not say that Plan B constituted legitimate self-defense in any and all circumstances, including after conception had occurred.

John: I wonder if it's now supposedly OK why did they so vigorously oppose it in the first place?

Are you Hobby-Horse Traditionalist John who has been disinvited from the blog? If not, carry on. If so, your chutzpah and rudeness beggars description.

Matt Bowman

LCB is right about the scope of the Plan B question, and shows why Different's view and his quote from Fr. Serpa is inapplicable. If an ovulation test shows ovulation, taking Plan B can't be said to prevent ovulation (the pro-abort scientists agree about this). Ovulation has happened or is already happening. Taking Plan B at that moment aims primarily and probably exclusively at the object of preventing implantation. That object cannot be called a secondary effect--it's the very reason for taking Plan B--it's the designed means by which Plan B achieves its intent of preventing "pregnancy" from the rapist in that circumstance. So Fr. Serpa's quote is different, because taking the pill to regulate a cycle does not include the intent or object of preventing implantation, and preventing implantation in that circumstance is not the means by which the cycle is regulated. Whether or not you agree with Fr. Serpa's quote, it is inapplicable here.

Karen

Are we sure of our biological understanding here?

I understand there is a race between the ovaries, and that more than one egg is involved. The first egg to break through a follicle wins, and the other eggs recede and do not actually burst through a follicle, due to the hormone release from the first, winning egg.

That means that eggs can be prevented from bursting through a follicle. We know this because it's precisely what the first egg *does* to the other eggs.

An ovulation test can only predict that ovulation is likely to happen within 48 hours, if it already hasn't. A positive ovulation test result ≠ "ovulation", not 100%. You need an ultrasound for that. "Ovulation" is actually the moment at which an egg bursts through a follicle, followed by the egg's short life of about 24 hours. The period leading up to this point, where an ovulation test might indicate "ovulation", does not mean that ovulation is happening at that moment. Ovulation isn't ovulation until one egg actually bursts through a follicle, regardless of what an ovulation test says.

So when an ovulation test indicates "ovulation", it might not be too late to administer a hormone to prevent ANY of the eggs from bursting through a follicle. I'm assuming that Plan B contains the hormones which would do that very thing, mimicking the effect that one egg would have on the other eggs that lost the race.

To know for sure whether it's too late, we'd need an ovarian ultrasound. We'd want to look for a burst spot on an ovary (and it can be seen with an ultrasound). If we don't see that, then no matter what the ovulation test indicates, it would be okay to use a hormone to prevent the impending ovulation. Like I said, one egg can do this, so I'm presuming it can be done with Plan B.

Ovulation tests therefore may not be required, as they don't do the job. Ultrasounds would, however.

SDG

If an ovulation test shows ovulation, taking Plan B can't be said to prevent ovulation (the pro-abort scientists agree about this). Ovulation has happened or is already happening. Taking Plan B at that moment aims primarily and probably exclusively at the object of preventing implantation. That object cannot be called a secondary effect--it's the very reason for taking Plan B--it's the designed means by which Plan B achieves its intent of preventing "pregnancy" from the rapist in that circumstance.

But what happens to this moral calculus when an evil law suspends the first six words from your comments above? Or suppose there were no ovulation test, so there was no way to know whether ovulation had occurred or not. Is it necessarily wrong to do what you can to delay ovulation if it has not occurred given that this measure may also prevent implantation if it has? Even if (again with the big "if") the latter was a much more likely outcome than the former?

Karen

If an ovulation test shows ovulation, taking Plan B can't be said to prevent ovulation (the pro-abort scientists agree about this). Ovulation has happened or is already happening.

No, see my post, two posts ago. An ovulation test isn't accurate enough to say that ovulation is already happening, let alone has happened. It will give a positive result within about 48 hours before the actual event, and during the event. Up until the actual ovulation, the positive ovulation test result only means, "Ovulation is likely to happen". You need an ultrasound to know for sure whether the ovulation test is indicating actual ovulation, or merely predicting an impending ovulation, then. You can't know whether it has already happened or is happening without an ultrasound. The 48 hours leading up to ovulation will show positive for ovulation, though ovulation is not happening until an egg bursts through a follicle.

Matt Bowman

SDG: That's a good question. But the law doesn't prohibit an ovulation test. It just makes it irrelevant. The law says you must administer the drug, unless you have a positive *pregnancy* test.

Matt Bowman

Karen: Scientists on both sides seem to agree that if an ovulation test is positive, it's too late for Plan B's anti-ovulatory effect. My understanding that I can double check for you is that Plan B's anti-ovulatory mechanism is to suppress the luteinizing hormone, but a positive ovulation test shows it's too late to stop the LH surge or that it already happened. So you're talking about the relationship between LH and the egg bursting through, but I'm talking about the relationship between Plan B and LH.

SDG

SDG: That's a good question. But the law doesn't prohibit an ovulation test. It just makes it irrelevant. The law says you must administer the drug, unless you have a positive *pregnancy* test.

Matt: Good point. I was focusing on the sentence from the bishops' statement that "To administer Plan B pills without an ovulation test is not an intrinsically evil act." However, as you note, the statement also acknowledges that the law doesn't simply prevent the hospital from requiring an ovulation test, as before, it also "does not allow medical professionals to take into account the results of the ovulation test" even if it is administered.

So what the bishops statement doesn't address at all is the case of a woman who first requests and receives an ovulation test, gets a positive result, and then wants Plan B anyway. The bishops could be right in arguing that "To administer Plan B pills without an ovulation test is not an intrinsically evil act." But what about administer Plan B even with a positive ovulation test, as the law would also require them to do? I don't see how you're going to argue that's not intrinsically immoral. In which case, I don't think the bishops are off the hook.

(Karen, sorry to ignore your distinctions and caveats -- I don't have the expertise to comment there. FWIW, "ovulation test" can be read as as "whatever procedure best determines whether or not ovulation has occurred and/or whether or not it is too late for Plan B's anti-ovulation effect." I'm just discussing principles.)

Mary

*sigh*

I read a feminist blog on this topic. The feminists were certain that the ovulation test was conclusive proof that what they were really after was "control of women's bodies."

Charles Shurman

So what the bishops statement doesn't address at all is the case of a woman who first requests and receives an ovulation test, gets a positive result, and then wants Plan B anyway.

That's where the issue of what Plan B actually does comes into play, where the Bishops state, "because of such doubt about how Plan B pills and similar drugs work." Even if an ovulation test were positive, there remains doubt that Plan B is abortifacient.

SDG

The feminists were certain that the ovulation test was conclusive proof that what they were really after was "control of women's bodies."

Which, on this theory, would be the goal because… why? What's the purported motive? Unconscious Freudian resentment? Sheer patriarchal Eeeevil? Isn't it just simpler, as well as true, to say "Those life-happy Catholics just don't want to see even a zygote artificially aborted"?

LCB

Karen,

Whoa, whoa whoa, slow down. Your posts are great, and you're contributing a great deal... but we must remember, 'First Things' always come first.

You wrote a long and complicated post regarding the moral issue of a child being conceived in wedlock. It's all a moot point, because the primary issue (the First Thing) is free will. Once a person freely engages in sexual activity, they have also freely accepted the consequences of such action (not using consequences in a pejorative way).

A rape victim has not freely engaged in the sexual activity, and as such has not freely accepted the consequence of that activity (possible pregnancy).

In all situations and all circumstances a child's right TO BE CONCEIVED trumps the child's right TO BE CONCEIVED IN WEDLOCK, since the later is dependent upon the former.

Because of that your conclusion, "So in the end, it's all equalized, that I can see" is wrong, since you started in the wrong place.

LCB

I was a little sloppy in my terms above, but the main point still holds.

The rape victim has the right to prevent conception, but not the right to cause an abortion. Thus Plan B seeks to prevent ovulation. The woman's right not to conceive does NOT trump the child's right to live once conceived, since life is a greater good than being free from pregnancy.

A person willingly engaging in sexual act must accept the consequences from that act. By willingly fornicating, they are perverting one meaning of the sexual act (unity in marriage etc), and secondary to that by willingly contracepting they are perverting the other meaning of the sexual act (creating new life). Since the the second is dependant upon the first, it does not apply in the case of rape victims.

It may seem strange to focus in on this, but if the distinction isn't VERY clear, there is a reverse argument for the moral acceptance of contraception in fornication. It is not morally acceptable.

Different

So, Plan B has two possible actions, preventing ovulation or preventing implantation. If it only acted preventing implantation that would be wrong. The action of preventing ovulation though in this case is a good act. Since the ovulation test cannot tell us definitively whether the ovulation has occurred or is about to occur doesn't really matter. Either way, the Plan B could be administered in the hope of preventing ovulation. The risk of preventing implantation is an acceptable risk and is not intended.

To whomever said Fr. Serpa's analysis does not apply. It certainly does here because we don't know whether the Plan B MIGHT prevent ovulation or not. If it has a chance to prevent ovulation, we should take it. According to your reasoning the married couple would have an obligation to ascertain when ovulation occurs and then avoid marital relations so as not to risk a miscarriage. But he says clearly, they DON'T have to abstain even when they KNOW ovulation is occurring.

Does anyone know if Plan B acts to kill sperm?

As SDG has mentioned this is not the same as the deer hunter situation.

SDG

Even if an ovulation test were positive, there remains doubt that Plan B is abortifacient.

But if ovulation has occurred, is there any established mechanism other than one that would obstruct implantation that by which Plan B might prevent pregnancy?

I know it's been proposed that Plan B could hypothetically interfere with fertilization even after ovulation, though I don't know what the proposed mechanism for such an effect would be, let alone of any evidence that this actually occurs.

I know it hasn't been conclusively shown that Plan B's effects actually do prevent implantation, although the proposed mechanism there seems clearer and more plausible. At any rate it seems to me that if Plan B prevents pregnancies after ovulation, the most likely mechanism, going by our current state of knowledge, would be by preventing implantation, not by preventing conception.

Therefore, if administering Plan B after ovulation thwarts pregnancy at all, it would seem that induced abortion is a more likely mechanism for this than preventing conception. Although some doubt may remain, this greater probability would seem to make it intrinsically immoral, at least given our current state of knowledge, to administer Plan B when it is known that ovulation has occurred.

LCB

SDG, I'm glad we're so closely 'on the same page' with this issue. I greatly respect your opinions, and would find it troubling if we were as far apart as I originally though. Rereading your original post with fresh eyes, and with your clarifications, brings clarity.

In your most recent post you wrote, "Having said that, if we assume (and again, that's a big "if") that Plan B works in a substantial majority of cases by preventing conception, and causes abortions only in a small minority of cases, then under the moral ambiguity wrongly imposed by this evil law, it would seem Catholic hospitals have a choice either to help to protect most rape victims from a rapist's sperm even though this will unavoidably mean in some cases unknowingly inducing abortion, or to refuse to help most rape victims in order to avoid unknowingly inducing abortion in a small number of cases."

You are correct, that is a big IF. The law is an evil law-- AND THUS IS NO LAW AT ALL. It has no binding force. It is not valid. It is not licit. It is not to be followed. It would be better to close every one of those hospitals, and stop doing all the good that they do, then to actively participate in the intentional taking of even one human life.

Further, the good of preventing many contraceptions from rape NEVER outweighs the evil of knowingly causing even one abortion in the other instances. Especially because a simple test (the results of whcih are now forbidden to consult) can prevent the possibility of causing abortions entirely. Deer Hunter Principle right down the line-- I have a 100% foolproof way of making sure I don't kill a hunter, not taking the shot if I have even a shadow of a doubt.

The war analogy does not hold. War involves killing people. Treating rape victims does not (or rather, should not) involve killing people.

Ignoring the evil law (for a minute), this whole issue hinges on the question of if Plan B can cause abortions. The fact of the matter is, the label still reads (paraphrasing): This pill might cause abortions.

And that's what we're talking about here. Killing little babies when we can easily avoid it.

SDG

It may seem strange to focus in on this, but if the distinction isn't VERY clear, there is a reverse argument for the moral acceptance of contraception in fornication. It is not morally acceptable.

Well, wait a minute, let's consider that. Obviously fornication itself isn't morally acceptable, contraceptive or otherwise. But is it clear that contraceptive fornication -- or adultery -- is a greater sin than non-contraceptive fornication? Does contraception necessarily compound the sin of extramarital sex? Or could it conceivably (so to speak) even mitigate it?

I know Aquinas would probably argue that contraceptive sex is always more unnatural, and he's probably right. But by the same token, IIRC, Aquinas argued that masturbation was more unnatural than adultery. He might be right about that too, in some sense, but while both are gravely sinful, I don't have any real doubt that adultery is the greater sin.

Let's consider the case of a pair of adulterers who use a condom. Condoms, of course, interfere both with the procreative and the unitive aspects of the conjugal act. However, in the case of adultery, which is the graver sin: an act of greater and more total union with one's neighbor's wife, or an act of lesser union? A more complete and absolute violation of one's nuptial obligations, or a less complete and absolute violation? An act of greater openness to violating a baby's right to be born of conjugal love, or an act of mitigated or non-openness to life in this context?

It seems to me at least arguable that while contraception is clearly a great offense and sin within marriage, in the case of sex outside marriage contraception might not only not compound the evil, it might even mitigate that evil.

The same would seem to be true of adulterers who engage in unnatural sexual acts not ordered toward procreation: These acts are always gravely evil, in marriage as well as outside it, but outside of marriage they might well be less gravely evil than ordinary sexual relations ordered toward procreation.

Obviously, this is not an easy point to make clearly; the Church can hardly be in the position of saying "Don't commit adultery, but if you do, use a condom."

By the same token, it would be very hard for the Church to say something like "Don't have same-sex relations, but if you do, use a condom" -- yet in that case obviously a condom is neither contraceptive nor anti-unitive, since no conception and no true unity are possible anyway.

From this it seems to follow that using a condom in a same-sex context does not in the least aggravate or compound the sin -- on the contrary, it may well mitigate the sin and make it less gravely evil, on the grounds that any increased level of protection against STDs mitigates the level of sin against charity.

So even though it would be hard for the Church to say it, it would seem that condom use does not add to the objective evil of same-sex acts and may even mitigate that evil.

For the reasons noted above, something in a similar direction (though obviously not the same) may be the case regarding extramarital heterosexual sex. Contraceptive marital sex is a great evil. Outside of marriage, I am not clear that contraceptive sex is worse than procreative sex, or even that it is not the other way around.

LCB

There are rare times when a man must ruthlessly plagarize from another source, this is one of those times. From the ever ever enlightening Diogenes (http://www.cwnews.com/offtherecord/offtherecord.cfm?task=singledisplay&recnum=4354):

Barr Pharmaceuticals, the American distributors of the "morning-after" pill, continues to insist that their product can prevent pregnancy when it is taken after intercourse. And remarkably enough, the company has no problem finding reporters who are willing to believe that the pill can suspend the laws of biology and of logic, preventing something that has already occurred.

For example, Fox News gives some space to critics of the pill, but provides this gem:

Some critics-- including Roman Catholic leaders-- consider the pill tantamount to abortion, although Barr says it has no effect on women who are already pregnant.

Really? So if a woman has already conceived, the pill will do nothing?

If that's what Barr wants us to believe, then let's have a new advertising campaign for the "Plan B" pill. Right on the package, put a banner that reads: "If you're already pregnant, this pill will do nothing." See what that does to the sales figures.

*END QUOTE*

If Barr were to add that banner to the Plan B box I'd have no problem with giving it out to all rape victims. Go ahead Barr, add it to the box. We're waiting.

Mike Petrik

I think that SDG's analysis is excellent. I would only add that I believe (this is belief based on recollection only) that the actual studies that have been performed on primates are highly indicative that Plan B, in fact, either does not prevent or only rarely prevents implantation, even though hypothetically it would seem to have that potential. Now, it is doubtful that these studies can be regarded as definitive, so it is quite reasonable to encourage further study.

As to Different's post above, I agree in large part, but I do think that whether Plan B is an "acceptable risk" is dependent on (i) its efficacy as a contraceptive and (ii) the risk that it actually acts or would act as an abortifacient. I disagree with the proposition that as long as it can do both it is permissible provided right intention. The principle of double effect does require a comparative risk analysis of both gravity and probability. And I disagree with the proposition that any hypothetical risk of abortion, no mater how remote, renders Plan B morally permissible without regard to contraceptive efficacy and quality of intention.

LCB

SDG,

Again, First Things. Willful sex outside of marriage = intrinsically evil. Doesn't (except in rare occasions) matter the conditions, you've crossed the threshold into intrinsic evil and mortal sin. A greater degree or lesser degree of complete and total seperation from God is moot. Sin #1

Quoting CCC 1035 in full, "1035 The teaching of the Church affirms the existence of hell and its eternity. Immediately after death the souls of those who die in a state of mortal sin descend into hell, where they suffer the punishments of hell, "eternal fire."617 The chief punishment of hell is eternal separation from God, in whom alone man can possess the life and happiness for which he was created and for which he longs. "

Contraception, condoms, etc are sin #2. Though dependent upon the first sin, they are still seperate and distinct. Commiting a seperate and distinct sin does not somehow mitigate the original sin.

Condom use and contraception do not add to the evil of the original act because they are seperate and distinct acts. Contraceptive or uncontraceptive fornication is still fornication.

SDG

Contraception, condoms, etc are sin #2.

This is precisely what I am questioning in the case of non-conjugal (non-marital) acts. I agree that such acts are always intrinsically evil in themselves. That doesn't answer the question whether adding a condom to such an act adds a new sin (and, again, HV specifically addresses conjugal or marital acts).

In the case of same-sex relations it seems quite clear to me that while the act itself is gravely immoral, throwing in a condom does not add sin upon sin. Of course the act in which the condom is being used remains gravely evil. This is precisely why it's so hard to make this point clearly. But adding a condom does not add a new level of sin.

It certainly does not add a contraceptive effect, since no conception is possible. Nor is there any sinful obstacle to unity here -- that is already intrinsic in the nature of the act. So by using a condom in a sinful act, same-sex partners do not thereby commit an additional sin, or compound the evil of their sin. Indeed, as I argued above, I would argue that since disregard for possible STD infection constitutes an additional sin, using a condom may well mitigate that sin.

In the case of adulterous partners engaged in normal congenital sex, clearly to add a condom is to add a contraceptive effect. My question is: Does this constitute an additional sin outside of marriage? I noted above that it may seem strange to say "Don't commit adultery, but if you do, use a condom." But would it be truer, or less true, to say, "Don't commit adultery, but if you do, don't use a condom"?

Is it better for adulterers to be more open or less open to life within the context of their adultery? I am not sure that it is not worse to be more open to life within the context of adultery. Remember, by divine law every child has a right to be conceived by an act of conjugal love. Uncharity toward the possible fruit of adultery is part of the great evil of adultery. Whatever else it does, contraception within adultery at least mitigates that evil.

Again, a condom also interferes with the unitive principle, but here too I am far from sure that outside of marriage this constitutes an additional sin above and beyond the sin of adultery. If anything, I think it potentially mitigates it.

Look at it this way: With regard to the unitive principle, a condom is such an evil within marriage is precisely that by separating the partners with a latex sheath, they are saying in effect, "I am completely united to you, but not really, because we are separated by this piece of latex."

In the case of adulterous partners, is it worse to say "I am completely united to you but not really" with a piece of latex, or worse to take the latex away and say "I am completely united to you without reservation"? It seems to me that the very reason why a condom is such an evil within marriage is precisely why it may not be outside of marriage.

Matt Bowman

You guys aer convrsing fast here! I just want to reapond to SDG from a few comments ago. An ovulation test is easy and a doctor could do it routinely. The notion that administering plan b without the test isn't intrinsically evil is a smokescreen. Not performing the test is moral if not medical negligence--merely closing one's eyes to whether the drug will kill an embryo. And saying it isn't intrinsically evil is insufficient--things can still be evil without being intrinsically evil. Giving plan b when an ovulation test is positive, or in willful blindness to that fact, is evil in that circumstance regerdless of whether it is intrinsically evil.

marianne

JIMMY: "I'm not defending these views. I'm just pointing out that they are not expressly precluded by the language used in Humanae Vitae or, to my knowledge, by subsequent Magisterial documents".

All Catholic teaching, always defends the dignity of life in any stage. Hairsplitting about whether or not a sexual act occurred within marriage misses the point entirely: it doesn't matter how you were conceived or by whom; it isn't your biological parentage that gives your life value; once conceived you are a child of God and your life, in that sense, is sacred.

An attitude that a life conceived in violence is less worthy than a life conceived in a loving marriage is a very serious misunderstanding of the fundamentals of constant Catholic teaching.

SDG

Hairsplitting about whether or not a sexual act occurred within marriage misses the point entirely: it doesn't matter how you were conceived or by whom; it isn't your biological parentage that gives your life value; once conceived you are a child of God and your life, in that sense, is sacred.

An attitude that a life conceived in violence is less worthy than a life conceived in a loving marriage is a very serious misunderstanding of the fundamentals of constant Catholic teaching.

Marianne: You didn't read the post carefully enough, to begin with. Nothing Jimmy wrote in any way suggests that a life conceived in violence is less sacred or less worth living.

That doesn't mean we can't attempt to prevent such a conception from taking place. Otherwise, as I noted above, a woman being raped could not break away from her attacker without committing coitus interruptus.

Having said that, I would hardly call use the word "hairsplitting" to describe the difference between "whether or not a sexual act occurred within marriage," let alone the difference between marital union and rape!

Mike Petrik

What SDG said.

matt

We should stay on track here, the debate is about a rape victim, so discussing the morality of contraception in voluntary non-marital relations is not relevent, is it? A good topic for another thread perhaps.

God Bless,

Matt

Different

Matt,

What you say about the ovulation test only holds if: 1. We know that the ovulation test indicates that ovulation HAS happened. If it means it COULD happen or MIGHT happen soon, that changes the picture quite a bit. And 2. If we know that Plan B will only work as an abortifacient once ovulation has occurred. What if Plan B still has a good shot at preventing fertilization even if we think that ovulation has just happened?

On another note, it seems that many here are taking the position that once a pregnancy is known to exist or is at least possible, all efforts must be made not to cause a miscarriage. Yet, we know from other bio-medical situations that this is not always true. In the case of a woman with cancer, she may take a medication even if she knows she is pregnant and even if she knows it will cause a miscarriage. There is no law that a newly formed child can never ever be harmed as a consequence of seeking to remedy a physical evil.

Again, does anyone know if Plan B can prevent fertilization even if ovulation has occurred.

Different

Oops, my post above mentions Matt as in Matt Bowman not the Matt who just posted...unless they are the same...sorry about that.

matt

First of all it is safe to assume that there is a very high likelihood Plan B can prevent implantation, because we know that it is nothing more than a high dose birth control pill, we know that they cause changes in the lining of the uterus that make it inhospitible to the tiny human we're discussing.

It seems to me that given that, even if we don't intend to cause this effect, and we are not able to determine if ovulation has occurred due to a pernicious law, the case of proportionality needs to be considered. What is the proportionality between a possibility of preventing an unjust conception, versus the possibility of killing an unborn child? It seems to me that the evil act has occurred, and the damage already done. Testimony of the mothers and children of rape is that the conception was not a lasting or certain harm. Under these circumstances how can we take a chance on killing an unborn child?

Those who cite studies which don't show the likelihood of abortion with these drugs ought to carefully consider the source of these studies. We are dealing with a very anti-life environment among the researchers, their results are very suspect.

I will re-raise the point that cooperating with a state that has such a pernicious intention is putting us in a place we ought not be. Consider the cooperation with Amnesty International? Why don't we still deal with them on non-abortion issues?

God Bless,

Matt

God Bless,

Matt

marianne

SDG: "Otherwise, as I noted above, a woman being raped could not break away from her attacker without committing coitus interruptus."

That's ridiculous.

The "hairsplitting" refers to tortured attempts to distinguish between circumstances of conception, as though such a distinction has any bearing whatever on the need to protect the one who has been conceived.

This is what JIMMY wrote above:

"The issue of non-marital contraception is a theological hot potato that the Holy See will eventually have to sort out, because this issue is not going to go away, as the situation of the Connecticut state law illustrates.
But if--and note the "if"--the Church ended up endorsing the view that contraception is impermissible within marriage but potentially permissible outside it then it would allow for a variety of situations, such as:
Nuns in dangerous situations where they may be raped could use at least some forms of contraception
Women who have been raped could be given at least some forms of contraception
I'm not defending these views. I'm just pointing out that they are not expressly precluded by the language used in Humanae Vitae or, to my knowledge, by subsequent Magisterial documents."

That's what he wrote and it is what I was addressing. It is ridiculous to suggest that there will ever be a time when the Church deems contraception "permissable" outside marriage. Ridiculous.


LCB

Ditto to staying on topic, and ditto to what SDG said re: Marianne.

Different,

I think we've finally arrived at our exact points of disagreement.

I don't think the inaccuracy of an ovulation test really makes that much of a difference, since it creates a very narrow band of time when Plan B can't be used, apx 72-96 hours out of every 28 days (if my counting is correct). 85-90% of the days of a standard cycle are Plan B safe, 10-15% are not. Since the 10-15% are easily determined, don't take the risk of causing an abortion.

You asked, "What if Plan B still has a good shot at preventing fertilization even if we think that ovulation has just happened?" So you're citing double effect. The good of preventing fertilization outweighs the evil of possibly killing an unborn child? I don't see how that is possible--because at this stage, the intended effect is no longer preventing ovulation. Plan B can not prevent fertilization once an egg has been released, it can only prevent a human life from continuing.

Remember, the purpose of taking Plan B is to PREVENT OVULATION. When ovulation can no longer be prevented, one crosses the threshold into seeking the 'unintended' evil out, making it an intended evil.

Ergo, when the possibility exists that an egg has been released, it would be illicit to prescribe Plan B.

You also wrote, "On another note, it seems that many here are taking the position that once a pregnancy is known to exist or is at least possible, all efforts must be made not to cause a miscarriage. "

That is not what I (or others, in my opinion) are saying. There must be a sufficient reason to undergo a treatment that will result in the death of the newly conceived child. For example, preserving the life of the mother (in a cancer situation) is sufficient. Tubal pregnancies are another example.

Once ovulation has taken place, ovulation can no longer be prevented. Therefore, once crosses the threshold from desiring to prevent ovulation into seeking out the 'unintended' evil, making it an intended evil.

You asked, "Again, does anyone know if Plan B can prevent fertilization even if ovulation has occurred."

Please consult my above post, quoting CWN's Diogenes. The product label states that it may cause abortions. The burden of proof rests on those who advocate using Plan B in these contested situations, to prove that it won't be causing abortions. Until it is otherwise proven, we must assume that abortions will be caused. The box of the product itself states the possibility.

Lino

The [three, fairly young, up-to-now orthodox?] bishops of Connecticut must have failed to consult the fiercely held conclusions of "Pharmacists for Life International," who have NO DOUBT that Plan B acts mainly as an abortifacient (anti-implantation) agent.

For FAQ, see:
http://www.pfli.org/main.php?pfli=planbfaq

For details on Plan B and other hormonal anti-baby efforts, see:
http://www.pfli.org/main.php?pfli=kemikalkill

SDG

marianne: That's ridiculous.

My point exactly. That's why it's called a reductio ad absurdum.

marianne: The "hairsplitting" refers to tortured attempts to distinguish between circumstances of conception, as though such a distinction has any bearing whatever on the need to protect the one who has been conceived.

No one here is questioning or disputing the need to protect anyone who has been conceived regardless any circumstances. That you keep bringing this up suggests that you are not following the argument closely enough.

The question has to do with preventing conception from occurring in the first place. The language in your posts does not seem to deal with the fact that these are two different issues.

marianne: It is ridiculous to suggest that there will ever be a time when the Church deems contraception "permissable" outside marriage.

Your saying so doesn't make it so. What we know from HV and the Catechism is that contraception is gravely contrary to the integrity of the conjugal act. Non-conjugal acts have no such integrity, and it is not clear that contraception in these cases constitutes an additional sin. In the case of rape victims, it is not clear that they sin at all by contraceptive efforts.

matt: We should stay on track here, the debate is about a rape victim, so discussing the morality of contraception in voluntary non-marital relations is not relevent, is it? A good topic for another thread perhaps.

I agree it's a tangent here. I think it's helpful to consider, though, in that emphasizing the specifically conjugal dimension in the Church's condemnation of contraception may be helpful in responding to those who see it like Marianne above.

LCB

Marianne,

You wrote, "That's what he wrote and it is what I was addressing. It is ridiculous to suggest that there will ever be a time when the Church deems contraception "permissable" outside marriage. Ridiculous."

That's not true at all. Nor are we hair-splitting, rather, we're axe-cleaving. These are BIG BIG differences.

Everyone agrees that once conception takes place, life is sacrosanct. However, if there are ways that can prevent conception from taking place, without risking an abortion, there would probably be some legitimate uses. FOR EXAMPLE: Nuns in war zones who risk rape. Victims of rape.

You also wrote, "The "hairsplitting" refers to tortured attempts to distinguish between circumstances of conception, as though such a distinction has any bearing whatever on the need to protect the one who has been conceived."

We are talking about pre-conception here. With all Christian charity, may I suggest that you are reading the posts and getting "conception" and "contraception" mixed up, since the words look so similar?

marianne

LCB: Thanks for the "Christian charity". However, SDG and JIMMY were speaking of "contraception" in the remarks I addressed.

SDG wrote: "What we know from HV and the Catechism is that contraception is gravely contrary to the integrity of the conjugal act. Non-conjugal acts have no such integrity, and it is not clear that contraception in these cases adds sin upon sin. In the case of rape victims, it is not clear that they sin at all by contraceptive efforts."

"Conjugal"/"Non-jugal" as regards "contraception".

SDG

marianne: You're going to have to help me parse your final sentence fragment. I have no idea how to read that.

LCB

Marianne,

Yes they were speaking of contraception-- which, by definition, means before conception has taken place. I quote you again, "The "hairsplitting" refers to tortured attempts to distinguish between circumstances of conception, as though such a distinction has any bearing whatever on the need to protect the one who has been conceived."

You are talking about post-conception situations, we are talking about pre-conception and preventing conception when that same conception would be a continuation of the rapist's attack. Once conception takes place, however, all bets are off. Life is life, and it is sacrosanct.

"Pulling out", AKA coitus interruptus, is a form of contraception. If no contraception is permitted in lieu of rape, then you are forced to admit that a woman could not fight the attacker off to make him 'pull out.' It follows, then, that contraception must be permitted in incidents of rape... as long as they don't result in an abortion.

Karen

LCB: Hi, pardon me for going too quickly at first. I was in a hurry this morning and wanted to post and get it over with.

I'm not sure I get your reasoning when you say:

In all situations and all circumstances a child's right TO BE CONCEIVED trumps the child's right TO BE CONCEIVED IN WEDLOCK, since the later is dependent upon the former.

Maybe you can clarify, because surely you don't mean that every single month, non-entities have "rights"(?) to anything, let alone to be conceived, and that this trumps ALL, whether or not they'd be conceived in wedlock, and regardless of circumstance. Do you realize the implications of saying that non-existent people have rights to anything, let alone to be conceived? Any time any fertile person were to elect not to engage in sex during a fertile time, regardless of marital status, they'd be denying a non-entity a right to be conceived, and like you said, this "right" is paramount so as to make marital status moot. If marital status is moot, then so is all else, and unmarried couples, doctors and petri dishes, and rapists ought to start getting busy! It's for the non-entities' rights to be conceived, after all. To follow through on what you're saying, then the severity of those sins might even be mitigated, because the sins provided existence to non-entities that had a right to be conceived.

A big problem is, the Church doesn't say that non-entities have rights to anything, let alone to be conceived. That's because it's logically nonsensical for non-entities to have rights. Good intention, but you're framing this all wrong. This is the kind of stuff that makes people laugh at Catholics and make inferences about our teaching which just aren't true. What the Church does teach in the way of this, is openness to children in the context of marriage, and that any children that are conceived, have the right to have been conceived within wedlock. Clearly we can then infer that conceiving them outside of wedlock is an illicit thing to do, even though at the same time, we cannot call conception a bad thing in itself. Once it happens, once it is a reality, it's a good thing. But like all good things, in the wrong context, they can be brought about through preventable, illicit means. We can never condone illicit means. Would you really follow through on your premise, and say that a serial rapist's intention to impregnate as many women as possible, mitigates the severity of his crimes? Because non-entities had rights to be conceived, and he made it happen? No, no no. NO.

In the case of fornication, we can't condone the use of contraception because it corroborates and fosters a culture of death mentality. But we also cannot condone conceiving out of wedlock either. Either option is condemnable.

I'm not trying to be a smartypants, I'm just having trouble in my search for better wording and making myself clear in this instance.

LCB

Karen,

I caught the mistake after I made the post, I got fast and loose with terms before my morning coffee. Read the post that followed for clarification.

I wasn't trying to say that non-entities have rights. That would be absurd. I was trying to point out that I felt you focused on the wrong starting point, and thus had the wrong conclusion.

magdalen

I am a pharmacist who has what is known as a 'conscience clause' in place and by that I mean that I do not have to dispense any abortifacients including the 'morning after pill' or Plan B nor do I dispense birth control pills. At one point in time, I took 8 years away from my profession as a retail pharmacist because I could not, in good conscience, be a part of the possibility of an abortion.

To have bishops now say that the 'morning after pill' is okay to use in hospitals for 'emergencies' jeopardizes my position as a retail pharmacist with a conscience clause. It can be shown that our bishops are not against this emergency contraceptive, so permission for me to refuse to dispense these drugs can be revoked. And I work in a college town and I can tell you that there are many 'emergencies' every weekend. And if is okay in one instance, then why not another? And another?

When our bishops do not stand up for what the Church teaches, it leaves us without a good handle to hold on to and makes a mockery of the true teachings.

The Pontifical Academy of Life in October 2000 condemned the use of the morning after pill writing, among other things, that:
3. It is clear, therefore, that the proven "anti-implantation" action of the morning-after pill is really nothing other than a chemically induced abortion. It is neither intellectually consistent nor scientifically justifiable to say that we are not dealing with the same thing.

Moreover, it seems sufficiently clear that those who ask for or offer this pill are seeking the direct termination of a possible pregnancy already in progress, just as in the case of abortion. Pregnancy, in fact, begins with fertilization and not with the implantation of the blastocyst in the uterine wall, which is what is being implicitly suggested.

4. Consequently, from the ethical standpoint the same absolute unlawfulness of abortifacient procedures also applies to distributing, prescribing and taking the morning-after pill. All who, whether sharing the intention or not, directly co-operate with this procedure are also morally responsible for it.

I am once again deeply disappointed and ashamed of the actions of some bishops. And I know that in my state and in others, this activity is going on in 'catholic' hospitals. There is the continued 'wink and nod' at the teachings of the Church, and then some just do what they want. Lord, have mercy on us! Lord, grant us holy and true shepherds!

Karen
I caught the mistake after I made the post, I got fast and loose with terms before my morning coffee. Read the post that followed for clarification.

I wasn't trying to say that non-entities have rights. That would be absurd. I was trying to point out that I felt you focused on the wrong starting point, and thus had the wrong conclusion.

I apologize for having missed it! I've just read it now, so don't think you weren't heard. I'd want some time to mull that over, though--I'm more strapped for time than I'd like to be, at this moment.

I hope you know that I'm clear on the distinctions made when a measure taken is actually abortifacient. And in the other thread, my post was not addressed to you, by the way :-)

Ed Peters

What SDG said, again.

marianne is confusing intensity of opinion with correctness of opinion.

Matt Bowman

Different: I accept your two prerequisites and claim they are both true with one modification to #1: an ovulation test can tell us whether the LH surge has occurred *or* is occurring such that plan b's anti-ovulatory mechanism is too late (plan b 's anti-ovulatory mechanism is not on "ovulation" directly, as I mentioned to Karen, but in suppressing the LH surge, which is the same thing an "ovulation test" measures. Thus your #2 kicks in: how else could plan b work at that time? There are only two ways left of the three that anyone on either side ever discusses: slowing down the sperm migration and preventing implantation. Dr. Diamond commented in Ethics and Medics several years ago that at the precise time we're discussing sperm migrate up to where the ovum comes out in about 90 seconds. I haven't seen anyone argue that there's a reasonable chance that plan b, if it "works," will work by stopping sperm at this point. In fact the other side just argues that plan b isn't very effective at all close to or past the LH surge--it's one of their arguments to try to show that implantation is probably not prevented. But they do not rule out the possibility--meanwhile they make us wonder what is the medical purpose of taking it at all at this stage (unless they know it does "work" sometimes, and don't care that the sometimes is implantation-preventing).

Matt Bowman

P.S. I am not the other Matt. He's free to use that first name though. :)

matt

Magdalen raises another incredibly salient point here, which furthers my premise, that even if we could find a potential moral loophole, the overall harm is great. In fact, I think that the question of rape and/or ovulation should be thrown out for fear that a court would not make such a fine distinction and force Catholics to distribute it under any conditions, never mind rape. We either stand by our principles or we don't.

God Bless,

Matt

Anthony

"I'm trying to explain the apparent reasoning of the Connecticut bishops."

Why in Gods name would you want to do that?

Publius

Why in Gods name would you want to do that?

Perhaps because he doesn't agree with the apparent dictum of the St. Blogs Combox Lay Inquisition that the words "bishop" and "witch" are interchangeable.

marianne

SDG wrote: "marianne: You're going to have to help me parse your final sentence fragment. I have no idea how to read that" (referring to
"Conjugal"/"Non-[con]jugal" as regards "contraception").

You are making a distinction between conjugal & nonconjugal acts as regards the licetness of contraception, aren't you?

If, as you say, SDG, "contraception is gravely contrary to the integrity of the conjugal act. Non-conjugal acts have no such integrity, and it is not clear that contraception in these cases adds sin upon sin",
then, contraception in connection with a "non-conjugal" act may be licit, or, at least, not sinful. That is what you wrote, isn't it? Why wouldn't it be licit or not sinful in all "non-conjugal" acts since, as you say, such acts have no "integrity"?

SDG

I wasn't asking you what I wrote, Marianne, I was asking what you wrote. I don't understand the syntax relating the words, if any -- what "'Conjugal'/'Non-[con]jugal' as regards 'contraception'" means.

You are making a distinction between conjugal & nonconjugal acts as regards the licetness of contraception, aren't you?

I am.

then, contraception in connection with a "non-conjugal" act may be licit, or, at least, not sinful. That is what you wrote, isn't it? Why wouldn't it be licit or not sinful in all "non-conjugal" acts since, as you say, such acts have no "integrity"?

As I have repeatedly had occasion to note, the point I am trying to make is very easily misstated or misunderstood. I would rather not say baldly that "contraception in connection with a 'non-conjugal' act may be not sinful" because it is hard to pick out one aspect of a sinful act and say "This is not sinful."

I would rather say it the way I have been saying it: In the case of a non-conjugal act contraception may not compound, or aggravate, or add to the sin, may not constitute an additional or new sin. This would be consistent with the conclusion that in the case of rape, where there is no sin on the part of the victim, contraceptive efforts (as distinct from abortifacient efforts) would not be sinful at all.

BenYachov(Jim Scott 4th)

If I may state the bloody obvious. The Vatican will have to weight in on this development. Until that happens all we can do is give our own non-authoritative opinions.

Phil W.

Could one argue that, since the victim is naturally entitled to make the act a coitus interruptus (by using force) in order to make conception less likely (an attempt which would be immoral in voluntary marital relations in the view of the Catholic Church), she is also entitled to non-abortifacient contraception in that situation, even if administered after the act?

Mike Petrik

Yes, Phil, I think so; and I think that argument is difficult to refute. That is not to say that it will convince those Catho-fundies who refuse to distinguish contraception, and why it is usually wrong, from abortion, and why it is always wrong. In fact, some of these folks are more likely to re-examine their assumption that an effort at coitus interruptus would be permissible in the context you provide. There are some people who just can't handle qualifiers or anything other than simple absolutes. Of course, moral theology is not that simple, but that very fact scares some folks.

That said, thankfully most of the commentators on this blog appreciate and agree with the point you are making. The difficulty lies in our imperfect knowledge as to whether Plan B acts as an abortifacient. The most recent science seems to say that while it can hypothetically, it rarely if ever does actually. But this science is still developing and we will presumably know more in 5 or 10 years. Those who are uncomfortable with Plan B cite the drug's label and a 7 year old statement from the Pontifical Academy of Life. The CT bishops presumably relied on the most recent science.

Finally, with the acknowledment that Plan B probably does operate as an abortifacient in at least some cases, there are those who would say that this answers the question -- any risk of abortion, no matter how remote, is impermissible. And there are those who would say that as long as Plan B operates also as a contraceptive then its use should be permissible under the principle of double effect, assuming proper intent. The right view, I think, is in the middle. The principle of double effect is applicable here, but its proper application requires a careful and good faith assessment of the risk of abortion. I slight or remote risk of an unintended consequence is different, for example, from a likely consequence, even if not intended.

Mary

Double effect only applies if the good end that is intended is as important as the evil consequence that is accepted.

True, but you do have to take into account the comparative probability of the good effect versus the evil effect.

To give an extreme example, if I drive to Mass every Sunday rather than walk, I gain the good effect of getting to Mass faster, but I also incur a possibility, however slight, that I might get into an accident and injure someone, or even one of my own family, in a way far outweighing the good of getting to Mass faster. Accidents are one of the possible evil side effects of driving, but we accept that possibility because it is comparatively remote in relation to the reliable good effects.

Bad example.

If you walked to Mass, you would also risk injury -- and it would probably be proportionately worse, as you and your family would not be surrounded by metal that would protect you.

Michael

That is not to say that it will convince those Catho-fundies who refuse to distinguish contraception, and why it is usually wrong, from abortion, and why it is always wrong.

I have to admit that statements like this make me less likely to consider nuances. Exactly how is it that contraception is only usually wrong? Has there been a definitive statement from the Magesterium regarding the licitness of birth control outside of marriage that we all missed?

Mike Petrik

Michael,
No, but it seems reasonably clear that there is nothing wrong with using emergency (non-abortifacient) contraception in cases of rape (hence "usually" instead of "always"). Or do you have a problem with that? And if so, do you have a problem with post-rape douching too? Do you think perhaps you were taking inferential liberties with what I actually wrote?

Janet

As a family practice physician who has been trained as a medical consultant for the Creighton Model NFP, I am appalled at the CT Bishop's statement. It says that Catholic hospitals will be allowed to give the MAP to rape victims and all they have to do is have a negative pregnancy test. It claims that giving the morning after pill (MAP) would not be considered an abortion. This is misleading, because the MAP can act as an abortifacient.

What is the MAP? It is the same hormones as are in the oral contraceptive (OCP), only a much, much larger dose.

How does it work? There are 3 ways. 1)Prevent the release of an egg from the ovary (ovulation); 2)Slow down transport of the sperm or egg (or the fertilized egg, also called a baby); and 3)Change the lining of the uterus to prevent the implantation of the fertilized egg (also called the blastocyst, also known as a baby). Preventing the implantation of the blastocyst (baby) is an abortion! There is no getting around this.

One problem is that the manufacturers and other interested parties (oh, I don't know, lets see, maybe... Planned Parenthood? Just a wild guess) are trying to change the definition of conception to mean implanting in the uterus, that way they can say that the MAP only prevents conception. Conception is when the sperm and egg unite in the fallopian tube and a new human being is now present. Therefore the MAP can and does act as abortifacient.

That said there is no reliable means to discern whether or not a woman is pregnant when she asks for the MAP. For example a woman could be 4 days pregnant when she is raped and an ovulation test and a pregnancy test would both be negative and if given the MAP an early abortion could ensue. Alternatively, a woman could have ovulated 12 hours prior to the rape and the egg is making its way toward the uterus and by the time the woman comes to the hospital she could already be pregnant (it has been shown that sperm can make it to the fallopian tubes within 5 minutes) and there would be no way to know this. If you could know with 100% certainty that a woman was not pregnant, then there would be no problem with administering the MAP.

Rape is a terrible thing, but it doesn't justify the potential killing of a human life.

SDG

If you walked to Mass, you would also risk injury -- and it would probably be proportionately worse, as you and your family would not be surrounded by metal that would protect you.

I would be surprised if it were at all controversial that the risk of serious injury while driving is greater than while walking. Anyway, even if I am struck by another car on my way to Mass, at least I am not myself the agent of the injury, as I might if I were behind the wheel. So how can I morally get behind the wheel and potentially become the cause of serious injury or death?

What do you think of my other example, that driving 65mph is more hazardous than driving 55mph, etc.? If a 55mph law is safer than a 65mph law, does that make a 65mph law immoral? If so, why not save even more lives with a 45mph law?

Isn't it the case that at some point a particular speed is judged safe enough -- meaning that even though we know that at this speed more people will die than at lower speeds, the likelihood of any particular trip at this speed ending badly is sufficiently low, and the regular and reliable good of increased travel times for every trip sufficiently worthwhile, that we are willing to allow people to drive this fast, and accept the unwilled but foreseen effect of marginally increased mortality?

LCB

Michael,

Please follow this line of thinking:

I. Coitus interruptus is a form of contraception
II. It is acceptable (even laudable) for a rape victim to attemp coitus interruptus (that is to say,l to stop the rape).
III. Therefore, there are circumstances when contraception is acceptable.

From there, it doesn't take a great logical leap to arrive at other forms of contraception being acceptable, as long as they don't cause abortions.

Liam

Another way for Michael to distinguish it is that rape is an act of violence, rather than a sexual act, properly speaking.

Gil Garza

The risks associated with Plan B® (Levonorgestrel) are very real.

Contrary to the statement of the Connecticut Catholic Bishops that there is “serious doubt” about how Plan B® (Levonorgestrel) works, the prescribing information is very clear.

The product is a synthetic progestogen (female hormone) which slows tubal transport of sperm to the ova. The product works by preventing sperm from getting to the ova.

However, if sperm have already reached the ova, slowing tubal transport also may have the effect of causing an ectopic pregnancy. Up to 10% of pregnancies in women taking this product are expected to be ectopic. This means that this product increases, by 500%, the risk of ectopic pregnancy.

Additionally, if sperm have already reached the ova and the fertilized ovum has already made it through the tubes, the product also alters the endometrium and may inhibit implantation. Once the process of implantation has begun, the product has no effect.

I suspect that the State of Connecticut threatened to stop Medicaid or CHIP funding to any hospital that did not use emergency contraception in their sexual assault protocols.

Mary

If you walked to Mass, you would also risk injury -- and it would probably be proportionately worse, as you and your family would not be surrounded by metal that would protect you.

I would be surprised if it were at all controversial that the risk of serious injury while driving is greater than while walking.

Got any evidence for that assertion? Given that people drive a lot more than they walk, relative numbers of accidents is not evidence.

Anyway, even if I am struck by another car on my way to Mass, at least I am not myself the agent of the injury, as I might if I were behind the wheel.

There is nothing about getting behind the wheel that necessarily makes you the agent of the injury, and nothing about walking that prevents it. It doesn't matter which you are doing if a car runs a red light and hits you. And if you run the red light yourself -- well, you could also cross an intersection without looking both ways.

Radical Catholic Mom

Janet,
I have a question for you. From what I have heard MAP cannot change the uterine lining because there is not enough time to do so, unlike non-stop birth control pills. This really is the only way that Plan B can be abortive, right? Or is there another mechanism Plan B uses to abort a new human?

Michael

The only form of contraception that the Catholic Church has stated is licit is natural family planning. Periiod. If someone can show me differently please do.

LCB, you are not the Magisterium and your reasoning is your own. Do not condescend.

Contraception is "any action which, either in anticipation of the conjugal act [sexual intercourse], or in its accomplishment, or in the development of its natural consequences, proposes, whether as an end or as a means, to render procreation impossible" (Humanae Vitae 14). This includes sterilization, condoms and other barrier methods, spermicides, coitus interruptus (withdrawal method), the Pill, and all other such methods.

http://www.catholic.com/library/Birth_Control.asp

Paul

Michael,

You are assuming "conjugal act" to mean "sexual intercourse in all cases." The Pope did not say "sexual intercourse in all cases"; he said instead "conjugal act." Their equivalence happens to be your reasoning, and you would need to show that the Pope really did mean the one when he in fact said the other.

Two rather good arguments interpreting this phrase have been made: one using the etymology of the term "conjugal", the other showing the ludicrous result if the phrase were to be expanded beyond the context of consensual sex. In order for your argument to be convincing, you would need to address and refute both.

Michael

Paul,

I follow the reasoning Jimmy put forward. I think it is important to point out though that even though the main emphasis of HV was to address the issue the use of Birth Control within the sacrament of marriage one cannot simply assume by that ephasis that the Catholic Church was implicitly teaching that birth control is licit outside of the marriage bed. It simply does not follow that by not specifically condemning something that approval is given. Someone correct me if I am wrong but it has been the consistent understanding and teaching of the Catholic Church that artificial birth control is always is illicit. That is why this decision by the Bishops is so stunning.

It is also worth pointing out that when the Anglican Communion allowed some recourse to artificial birth control at its Lambeth Conference in 1930, specific exceptions quickly snowballed into a universal acceptance. I suspect that Rome is wary about even starting down that path considering the history of it.

Mike Petrik

Michael,
The reasons that the use of artifical contraception is normally wrong are set out in HV. While those reasons may have imperfect or limited application in non-conjugal sexual relations, they still have application. This stands in contradistinction to rape, where they have no application, unless you see rape as in ANY way unitive in design and purpose. So if artificial contraception is wrong in the case of rape, then we are waiting for an explanation. HV did not address it, and you are wrong to suggest it does. Words are only so elastic; and the use of the term conjugal to describe rape is taking unfair liberties with that word.

Michael

This is getting really disturbing. Does so many here think they can apply their own reason and decide what Catholic morality actually is? I want to reprint what Mr. Akin wrote in his original post.

THE BIG RED DISCLAIMER: What I am about to write is not indicative of my own view. I'm trying to explain the apparent reasoning of the Connecticut bishops. I'm not saying that they are correct or incorrect. Rome could rule either way on this, and it may well get involved. What I'm trying to do is explain a position, not defend it.

Please try to understand that what is posted in the combox of Jimmy Akin's blog is not definitive Church teaching. What this thread is is a discussion of some speculation about the reasoning behind a decision some Bishops made. It is nothing more than that. I cannot believe that we have jumped from that beginning to people here claiming without equivocation that HV only applies to artificial contraception within the sacrament of marriage. Excuse me as I mistook this for a Catholic and not a Protestant blog.

Mike Petrik

Michael,
Who exactly is "claiming without equivocation that HV only applies to artificial contraception within the sacrament of marriage"? I never remotely even suggested such a thing, and if you are suggesting that I have then you are wrong. What I have said is that the reasoning undergirding HV does not apply to rape, unless one sees the act of rape as fitting within the concept of unitive; and that HV does not speak to rape since it speaks to marital relations (a term which I think fairly assumes consent). I agree with you that it is doubtful that consensual sexual relations outside marriage are exempt from the moral prohibitions against artificial contraception, even if I suppose the question *might* possibly be regarded as open for the time being. But my agreement on this score is grounded in an application of the reasoning of HV, which would seem largely to obtain, abeit perhaps imperfectly, to consensual sexual relations outside marriage. Such reasoning, however, would seem to not apply at all in cases of rape, in which case neither the holding nor the rationale of HV would place a moral impairment on the use of an artifical contraceptive (that is not an abortifacient) as an act of defense in the case of rape. Until Rome says otherwise, we must each reach our own conclusions, with the guidance of our bishops, including those in Connecticut.
Straw men assertions are the stuff of dishonesty, you know.

LCB

Michael wrote,

"It simply does not follow that by not specifically condemning something that approval is given."

And

"Someone correct me if I am wrong but it has been the consistent understanding and teaching of the Catholic Church that artificial birth control is always is illicit"

Michael,

I will, with all possible Christian charity, correct you because you are wrong. It is not the consistant understanding and teaching of the Church that all forms of artificial birth control are always illicit.

Consider Directive 36 from the USCCB Document on 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. 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."

Remember, we're talking about in circumstances of rape here. Rape is not a conjugal act, and we're talking about trying to prevent a pregnancy. CCC 2356 is clear, "[Rape] is always an intrinsic evil." Thus the use of the contraceptive (the taking of which is not always evil, since an object itself is not intrinsicly evil) is to prevent the continuation of the assault by forced pregnancy.

LCB

Michael,

I'd also like to suggest that you reread each post on this thread. Some of them are very complicated, and might need to be read more than once. I know I had to (as I suspect SDG and others did as well), and still we sometimes misunderstand each other.

We're dealing with some tough moral theology here, and some tough science.

I mean this in all possible Christian charity, Michael, but I don't think you've fully understood what's been said in the combox. In addition, I don't think you totally understand what and why the Church teaches about contraception.

As for your line telling me not to condescend-- I have tried not to be condescending. If I have been, please forgive me. However, your erroneous authoritive pronouncments seem to carry an condescending tone.

Laying out my syllogism was only an attempt to help you and others better understand the issue and the thinking. That being said, if you think that I am wrong, and that the US Bishops are wrong, please refute the syllogism-- since faith and reason can never be opposed to each other, my reasoning must be in error.

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