Rome, Italy, Feb 7, 2013 / 12:30 pm
News stories declaring that Cardinal Meisner will allow the "morning-after" pill for rape victims were the result of his words being manipulated and scientists giving him inaccurate information about the drug, according to a leading physician.
"It seems that the cardinal's words were manipulated," Doctor Jose Maria Simon Castellvi told CNA Feb. 7.
"In any case, the morning-after pill works as an anti-implantation product in 70 percent of the cases where the woman is fertile," said Dr. Simon, president of the World Federation of Catholic Medical Associations.
Cardinal Meisner of Cologne, Germany was drawn into the discussion about the morning-after pill after a story surfaced in the local press about a 25-year-old woman who walked into an emergency room and told the attending physician that she thought she was drugged and possibly sexually assaulted at a party the night before.
The doctor on call, Irmgard Maiworm, said she called two separate Catholic hospitals that were nearby and asked if they would admit the woman. Dr. Maiworm said that both of them refused to admit her, since the prescribed course of treatment would involve using the morning-after pill, known in the U.S. as Plan B.
The German public reacted strongly to reports about the incident, and Cardinal Meisner issued a Jan. 22 apology in which he said it was shameful for a Catholic hospital to refuse treatment to a rape victim.
Cardinal Meisner subsequently met with medical experts about the morning-after pill and they told him the latest research indicated the drug does not have anti-implantation effects.
After that meeting, Cardinal Meisner issued a Jan. 31 statement in which he said that if "a medication that hinders conception is used after a rape with the purpose of avoiding fertilization, then this is acceptable in my view."
His statement was widely interpreted by the press as giving permission for Catholic hospitals to dispense Plan B to rape victims.
But the study presented to the cardinal was one that was coauthored by Kristina Gemzell-Danielsson, who acknowledges at the end of the paper that she "has served on Medical Advisory Boards of HRA- Pharma and Bayer on matters related to emergency contraception."
In his remarks to CNA, Dr. Simon also pointed out that the manufacturer of the morning-after pill says the drug may prevent an embryo from implanting on the uterine wall.
"So, we cannot accept it, since even a microscopic human embryo is a person with rights, dignity and a son of God," he insisted.
The German bishops' conference will be holding its annual full assembly in two weeks in Trier, Germany and plans to discuss the matter further.