.- The reasoning offered by the German Catholic bishops for allowing the morning-after pill in rape cases is being faulted for citing information that is not medically accurate.
“There is absolutely no such pill with a 100 percent guarantee that it will not cause an abortion,” said Dr. Catherine Vierling, who studied medicine at the Universities of Paris and Strasbourg.
The German bishops unanimously agreed on Feb. 21 to allow the morning-after pill to be administered in Catholic health facilities for rape cases, provided that it is administered in a way that “has a preventive and not an abortive effect.”
Their decision came after a 25-year-old woman said she was raped and was refused treatment at two Catholic hospitals in Cologne.
“Medical and pharmaceutical methods which result in the death of an embryo still may not be used,” a Feb. 22 statement from the German Bishops’ Conference said.
However, as part of their discussion, Cardinal Karl Lehmann, president of the conference’s Commission for Doctrine and Faith, provided a moral and theological evaluation of the morning-after pill “on the basis of scientific findings on the availability of new compounds with modified effect.”
But Vierling disputed the claim that there are new formulations of the pill that only work as contraception.
“That pill has at least four effects, and there is absolutely no pill in the world which could dissociate these four phases,” Vierling told CNA on Feb. 22.
“These phases include acidification of the vagina, which destroys sperm,” as well as the prevention of ovulation, she said.
Vierling explained the third phase will cause an abortion if an embryo is present because it causes the fallopian tube to lose its ability to move the child into the mother’s womb.
She noted that “the fourth phase thins the lining of the uterus, preventing the embryo from implanting itself onto the uterus, so this is also an abortifacient.”
Therefore, she explained, pills taken after sexual intercourse are capable of producing either a contraceptive or abortive effect, depending on whether the woman has ovulated or not.
There is no new formulation of the morning-after pill that functions only as a contraceptive with no potential to cause early abortions, she stressed.
Dr. John Haas, a bioethicist at the National Catholic Bioethics Center and a permanent member of the Pontifical Academy for Life, explained that there are medical tests that can be done to determine whether a woman has ovulated yet at a given time.
Once tests have determined that ovulation has not taken place – and that pregnancy has therefore not occurred – the standard morning-after pill could be used for its contraceptive effects, without making use of its abortifacient potential.
Vierling commented that “in the light of the information the German bishops have been given, they wanted to stress that it is always better to avoid conception of a new human being than to abort it.”