December 14, 2005

If you get raped, don't go to a Catholic hospital

I apologize for the bluntness of my title, but this is just enraging.
The Catholic Action League of Massachusetts is urging the state's Roman Catholic hospitals to defy the state's new emergency contraception law[...]
The law requires hospitals to offer the morning-after pill to rape victims[...]
"The appropriate response for Catholic hospitals is noncompliance," Doyle said. "Otherwise, they would be compromising their religious integrity and Catholic identity."
I am Catholic and vaguely pro-Life (I have numerous reservations about the movement and the philosophy), but this is plain wrong. Unless the Catholic Church plans on personally raising or personally assisting in finding each non-aborted child a home, this policy is ethically irresponsible.

This is not a matter of the broad moral dimensions of the abortion question, it's about giving women who have just been raped a choice to determine their own moral path.

Catholics believe God gave us free will; why should we, who are supposed to emulate God, not do the same? No, apparently that would be compromising our Catholic identity. The suffering of a compromised human being? Nothing compared to keeping our Catholic identity uncompromised.

Perhaps some have forgotten, but Christianity is about compassion, not control.

(via feministing)

Edit: The difference between liberal and conservative Christians: It's a matter of "priorities."


  1. Anonymous7:28 PM


    Emergency contraception (a.k.a. Plan B or "the morning after pill) does not cause abortion. It is a large dose of hormonal contraception (a.k.a. "the pill") that works by preventing ovulation. It will not terminate an existing pregnancy.

  2. Anonymous7:33 PM


    The fact that EC is not abortive makes this policy even more ridiculous. It is one thing to deny a rape victim access to abortion. (Although I do not agree with that policy either) But it is another thing entirely to deny a rape victim access to contraception altogether.

  3. i don't think it matters to this group what the pill actually does; the point is, it's connected to altering the natural process of conception and pregnancy and therefore should be banned.

    but yeah, you're absolutely right.

  4. Anonymous10:09 PM

    "This is not a matter of the broad moral dimensions of the abortion question, it's about giving women who have just been raped a choice to determine their own moral path."

    I don't think they're trampling on anyone's self-determination here. They're simply refusing to assist in abortion/contraception (don't know enough about the various morning after pills to say which ones are which, but it doesn't matter because the Church opposes 'em all). They don't "deny a rape victim access" to these services.

    Choosing not to abet something is not the same as restricting it. Any business has the right to determine what services it will and won't provide. Have you ever tried to find a mechanic to work on a foreign car? A stolen car? Or maybe you find out the local video store won't rent you a porno. Individuals too: if a vegan invites you over for dinner, do you really expect him to bake you lamb chops? You do not have the right to require someone else to commit an act he considers gravely immoral.

    The remarkably simple solution is right there in your post title: don't go to a Catholic hospital, if you know the service you're looking for is against their beliefs. Don't bother; it's not on the menu. You determine your moral path by leaving the hospital and going to one that offers the service you want.

    That said, if you get raped and are looking for counseling, understanding, comfort, support, or basically anything that's not against their beliefs on fertility, the Catholics will take care of you gladly.

  5. Perhaps a woman is gravely injured and a Catholic hospital is the one closest. Or what if she is unconscious and can't express her preference for a non-Catholic hospital?

    Getting a mechanic is not often an emergency. Rape is. The rules are different.

    Say it is against my most core beliefs to come into contact with women's blood and to use telephones. If, while walking down a rarely traveled alley, I refuse help to a woman who has just had a serious accident—or a rape victim—because I don't want to "soil myself" with their blood, and I don't call for help because I don't want to pollute myself with telephone contact, should I be legally blameless? Wouldn't I be negligent in doing my duty as a citizen if I did not act in some capacity to help the victim out?

    It's an extreme situation, but Catholicism's approach to abortion/contraception is an absolutist one, which makes it, therefore, also extreme.

  6. in addition, now that I think about it, the Catholic Church has a history of distinguishing morally between actions performed on behalf of someone else and actions performed entirely of one's own volition. There is actually a long discursus about this in Shakespeare's Henry V, if I remember correctly it's in the bit when Henry disguises himself and goes to talk to the soldiers. Some of the common soldiers question the justice of Henry's campaign in the eyes of God, and another states that it is of no moral consequence for the soldiers—the responsibility for the war's justness lies solely with Henry. Similarly, the Inquisition, the Crusades, and, hell, probably even the IRA work within a Catholic framework that separates actions undertaken for a cause from those taken individually. An action that would be a mortal sin on one's own is justified by action for a cause.

    Surely, the well-being of a woman is a cause worth sinning for.

  7. Anonymous1:08 AM

    You make some good points, but I'm not sure they completely rule out another hospital. She's gravely injured--well, you can heal grave injuries just fine without performing an abortion. No one said she couldn't use the hospital at all. Go to Caritas for all the treatment for *injuries* related to the rape, and then if you want to abort the child, then go take care of that. Rape is tragic, but unless there's beating involved, I don't know if it's an "emergency," in the medical, time-sensitive sense of the word. And if there is beating involved, what are the chances that it's something which can be helped by the aborting of an hours- or days-old fetus? I see the vast (vasty?) majority of these situations as allowing for two stages: immediate save-your-life treatment, and afterwards take-care-of-the-consequences treatment. Maybe someone who's put in a coma while pregnany needs the decision made for her, but it's hard to imagine a situation where the need for the abortion is immediate. You've at the very least a trimester's worth of window, no? I guess I'm not seeing how the abortion of such a young fetus is part of the save-your-life phase of treatment. Don't most "health of the mother" situations result after the fetus develops at least a little?

    Hey though--count your blessings the Jehovah's Witnesses aren't running major hospitals. It could be a lot worse.

  8. Anonymous1:17 AM

    "It's an extreme situation, but Catholicism's approach to abortion/contraception is an absolutist one, which makes it, therefore, also extreme."

    No, we may be tempted to think absolutist stands with which we disagree are extreme, but there are plenty of things people are absolutist on. I'm absolutist in my opposition to cannibalism, genocide, Satanism, rape, burnings at the stake, human bondage (the cotton-and-tobacco kind, not the whips-and-leather kind), and a whole host of other nasty, diabolical things. I bet you are too, and I bet we're joined by billions worldwide. That's certainly absolute, but it's not really extreme. The Church's position on abortion may yet be extreme, but if so it is not on account of its absolutism.

    Also, the Church isn't precisely absolute on abortions, because it allows them under the "Rule of Double Effect." But that's a technicality.

    I look forward to hearing what you think.

  9. I definitely agree with what you are saying. I am absolutely and extremely against the Yankees, for example.

    I was trying to be artful when I should have been straightforward. What I meant to say is that my example is a far-fetched one, I know, but I feel I can use a far-fetched example because I'm comparing it to a stance at the end of a spectrum of stances on abortion. I was trying to draw out that when I said the Church's position was extreme, I didn't mean to bring in the negative connotations of the word, but just to say it existed at one end of a spectrum. Sorry for being uncelar.

    I have no problem with absolutist positions per se, I just wanted to point out that it was an absolutist position, and so my analogy wasn't totally ridiculous.

  10. "Hey though--count your blessings the Jehovah's Witnesses aren't running major hospitals. It could be a lot worse."


    I guess what I'm depending on is that the use of Plan B is morally superior, medically better, and probably psychologically less traumatic compared with a normal, operational abortion. That's something I believe, and I should have stated that.

    Therefore, by refusing Plan B to the mother, they are in effect forcing her into a morally worse alternative. But that's arguable, I realize. Maybe it's just an attempt to salve my conscience.

  11. They just can't have it both ways. Either you provide effective sex education and birth control (which I consider Plan B, however ill-conceived a plan [no pun intended], to be). At one time and in some places, the Catholic church was politics. Today, they apparently subscribe to baseless political trends and force them on their members.

  12. In response to some of the comments posted earlier, the morning after pill is sort of an emergency if the rape victim is hurt/unconscious or otherwise unable to move to a different hospital in a given time frame because the pill has a limited time of functionality. A hospital has a responsibility of serving the well-being of their patient. The key point, I think, is that hospitals are not really the same private enterprises (for one thing, they are often non-profit organizations). Besides the following usual legal rules, hospitals have certain ethical responsibilities to their clients (patients) that other businesses don't necessarily have. If emergency contraceptions is not used, then the victim may have to opt for an actual abortion at a later point of time, which brings along with all the usual moral/ethical qualms.