“I'm going to write a long letter to the German Bishops' Conference to give them some scientific light about this topic,” Doctor Justo Aznar told CNA Feb. 22 after the Pontifical Academy for Life's annual meeting at the Vatican.
The German bishops decided Feb. 21 to allow Catholic hospitals to use the morning-after pill or other contraception in rape cases, provided that the medication acts as a contraceptive and not an abortifacient.
Their decision came after a 25-year-old woman claimed she was raped was refused treatment at two Catholic hospitals in Cologne. Cardinal Joachim Meisner issued an apology on Jan. 22, saying it was shameful for a Catholic hospital to refuse treatment to a rape victim.
The German bishops were already planning to meet as a group, so the topic was added to the agenda of their four-day gathering in Trier, Germany. The bishops unanimously agreed to allow the morning-after pill in rape cases, provided that it is administered in a way that “has a preventive and not an abortive effect.”
In response, however, Aznar called it a mistake for German bishops to think a morning-after pill will not act as an abortifacient.
“I hope the statements that I heard last night are not true, but if it is I think it’s a small technical ignorance by the German’s Bishops Conference,” said the physician, who has been working at La Fe Hospital in Valencia, Spain for 34 years.
Aznar heads up the hospital's department of pathobiology, a field that applies the fundamentals of biology and medicine to global health issues.
“One could use the morning-after pill if we had the certainty that it was just a contraceptive, because in the case of rape, that would be a positive thing,” he said.
But Aznar argued there is scientific evidence that proves the pill also has an anti-implantation effect and therefore also abortifacient.
“I would say that approximately in half of the cases it acts as a contraceptive and the other half it has an anti-implantation effect.”
“So I estimate that there is no way a pill that can end the life of many human beings can be used after rape and it is ethically unjustified,” said the doctor, who also serves as the director for life sciences at the Catholic University of Valencia
“They need in depth study and Germany's Bishops Conference needs to show the reasoning as to why they believe that pill can be used.”
The doctor believes that the Pontifical Academy for Life, whose world members are in a two-day conference in Rome until Feb. 23, should take action on the issue.
“It is our specific job to rationalize scientifically on topics related to defending life to establish correct moral laws and help Vatican organizations,” he noted.
“The legitimate defense of a raped woman needs to be established much earlier through other procedures and through education.”
“But in rape, the way the human life has been conceived is not this life’s fault.”
The doctor reflected that “a child generated from rape is as worthy for respect as a child generated in the most intense loving relationship.”
“Once a child has been generated he is worthy of complete respect and cannot be eliminated,” Aznar said. “Previous procedures need to be established so that human barbarity of rape that shouldn’t exist can be prevented.”
A leading Catholic doctor in Spain says he will write a letter to Germany's bishops to help correct what he believes to be their mistaken views on the morning-after pill.
German bishops, Morning-after pill