Emergency Contraception Permitted Under “Certain Conditions”


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?

The New York Times 


  1. This is definitely an important issue that needs to be addressed both on a national and international level. I am not sure whether the F.D.A. will willingly heed Judge Korman’s judicial decree. It is interesting because Judge Korman’s decision to make Plan B available over the counter for all ages overturned a decision made by the Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Seblius in 2011. Furthermore, the NY Times quotes Judge Korman as saying “the secretary’s action was politically motivated, scientifically unjustified, and contrary to agency precedent.”

    A change in our national policy on the availability of the morning-after pill may eventually result in the social change that Catholic organizations oppose. Even though Catholic organizations have strict religious moral opposition, it is definitely important that the Swiss Catholics bishops acknowledge the importance of the Plan-B pill (at the very least) in cases of rape, as Catholic bishops in Germany and Spain have.

  2. It is my opinion that emergency contraception should be readily available for those that need it. The only obstructions that should be in place should concern health of the person taking the pill, not their religious views or the religious views of others. I commend Judge Korman for handing down such an order despite some of the backlash and criticism. I believe the FDA will follow the order because they originally found that the drug could be sold over the counter without any age restrictions. Kathleen Sebelius, Health and Human Services Secretary, overruled the FDA recommendation (that the drug should be available over-the-counter to women of all ages) because the manufacturer had not studied the effects of the drug on girls eleven years of age or younger, even though only a small percentage of eleven year-old girls in the United States are physically able to become pregnant. Also, the FDA originally told the drug manufacturer it did not need to provide that data on younger females. Ultimately, this age restriction looks more like a political move, instead of a scientific based one. It makes sense though. The overruling on this recommendation was back in December 2011 a few months before the heat of President Obama’s political campaign for re-election. The Obama Administration did not want to be seen as supporting sexual activity for younger girls or taking a stance to fuel the abortion debate. It is sad that political agendas win out when compared to the actual health and well-being of individuals who just need access to a very important drug.

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