The Connecticut state Senate overwhelmingly approved a bill Wednesday that would require all hospitals — including the four Catholic facilities — to provide the Plan B emergency contraceptive to rape victims. The abortifacient drug is also known as the morning after pill.
“This bill is a violation of the separation of Church and State,” wrote Bishops Henry Mansell of Hartford and William Lori of Bridgeport in a letter to lawmakers on Wednesday. “The Catholic Bishops of Connecticut are responsible for establishing and determining what moral guidelines Catholic institutions should follow; not the Connecticut General Assembly.”
“Senate Bill 1343 should contain language that respects the religious beliefs of Catholic hospitals and not force them to cooperate, either directly or through a third-party contract, in an abortion,” they said.
The bill, which passed 32-3, now heads to the House, where it appears likely to pass, reported the Journal Inquirer.
The bill allows hospitals to first give patients a pregnancy test. Those with religious or other objections could hire an outside physician to administer the contraceptive rather than assign that duty to hospital staff.
The Connecticut Catholic Conference rejected the measure, saying that hiring a physician outside of regular staff would not undo the ethical concern.
"It is clear to us that this approach would involve the hospital in a way that would violate Catholic moral principles of cooperation," the bishop wrote. "It would still involve Catholic hospitals in the performance of early abortions by administering Plan B when the medication cannot act solely as a contraceptive."
The state's four Catholic hospitals — St. Francis, St. Raphael, St. Vincent, and St. Mary — do not provide the contraceptive if a woman is ovulating or pregnant.
The Catholic hospitals have argued that the Plan B contraceptive could cause an abortion by preventing the implantation of a fertilized egg. Catholic teaching holds that human life begins at conception.
“Catholic hospitals provide emergency contraception to rape victims in the vast majority of cases,” the bishops noted in their letter. “In fact, it is an extreme rarity when this medication would not be provided.”
Senate Minority Leader Louis DeLuca (R-Woodbury), Sen. Daniel Debicella (R-Shelton), and Donald DeFronzo (D-New Britain) opposed the bill.
DeLuca had proposed an amendment, which was endorsed by the Catholic Conference, would require every hospital to have a written protocol for dealing with rape victims. Hospitals would be allowed to refer such patients to other facilities, but would have to report their reasons for doing so to the Department of Public Health.
“Catholic hospitals, in those rare cases, would provide the patient information on where the medication is available and provide transportation to another hospital if the patient requests a transfer. Outside rape crisis counselors are also available from outside the hospitals if the patient requests their support,” the bishops said.
DeLuca did not succeed in getting the amendment passed.