Last month, the Swiss Catholics Bishop Conference discussed whether rape victims may use emergency contraception. A recommendation from their bioethics committee prompted the discussions. The spokesperson for the Swiss Catholics Bishop, Walter Müller, recognized that “rape is an act of violence which transgresses the fundamental rights of women and cannot be accepted.” The Swiss discussions might also be prompted by recent doctrinal changes approved by Catholic bishops of Germany and Spain.
Changes in Germany were sparked by the refusal of a Catholic hospital to provide the morning-after pill to a suspected rape victim. The hospital’s policy spurred strong reactions that the Church was forced to address; Monsignor Ignacio Carresco de Paula, a Vatican representative and president of the Pontifical Academy for Life, expressed his support for a change in policy.
The Swiss Broadcasting Corporation explains the Catholic Church’s approach: “in cases of rape all possible action must be taken to prevent a pregnancy but not to interrupt it.” It is estimated that more than 100,000 packs of the morning-after pill are sold in Switzerland each year. While it will never be the case that the Catholic Church endorses the disbursement of every pack, it would relieve some of the struggle for rape victims if their access to the morning-after pill wasn’t completely obstructed.
On the home front, Judge Korman of the Eastern District of New York ordered that the most common morning-after pill, Plan B One-Step, be made available over the counter for all ages. The decision was rendered last Friday, April 5, 2013, dispensing with the requirement that girls under the age of 16 present a prescription for the pack. Judge Korman criticized the other government actors and organizations, particularly the Obama Administration, for failing to ease restrictions on access to the pill. Judge Korman set a 30-day limit for the F.D.A. to lift all age and sale restrictions on Plan B One-Step and its generic versions.
Looking at the big picture, I take a reassuring message away from the more liberal and accepting policies seen within our own borders and abroad. I am also curious to see how the F.D.A. reacts. Do you think the F.D.A. will willingly heed Judge Korman’s judicial decree? Do you think a change in our national policy on the availability of the morning-after pill will result in the social change that Catholic organizations so noisily oppose?