Religious Freedom

Conn. bill could jeopardize religious liberty of Catholic hospitals

.- Catholic groups are urging the Connecticut legislature not to pass a bill that would force the state’s four Catholic hospitals to provide the emergency contraception pill to all rape victims, independent of whether ovulation has begun.
The Connecticut Catholic Conference, the Catholic League, the four Catholic hospitals, Connecticut Right to Life, and the Family Institute of Connecticut have all voiced their opposition to the bill, presented by Rep. Deborah Heinrich.

The same proposal failed to pass last year. The Human Services Committee must act on the bill by March 22 or, like last year, it would fail.

“I respectfully urge you not to jeopardize the religious-liberty prerogatives of Catholic hospitals,” said Catholic League president Bill Donohue in a letter to the Legislature’s Human Services Committee.

“The emergency contraception pill may act as an abortifacient — not a contraceptive — depending on whether the woman has begun ovulation,” he said. “In those instances, it would be totally immoral for Catholic hospitals to cooperate in the termination of innocent human life.”

The four Catholic hospitals have been following a protocol since January 2006 in which they can offer the morning-after pill only under certain circumstances.

“If it has been determined that ovulation has not taken place, then Catholic hospitals are free to prescribe Plan B,” Donohue explained.

If the patient has ovulated, the doctors cannot prescribe Plan B. The protocol directs doctors to provide the rape victim with a list of places where she can receive it and transportation if necessary.

While Plan B has been available over the counter since January, advocates of the proposed legislation say it should be part of standard medical care for rape victims at the time of their treatment.

The Connecticut Catholic Conference notes that if the policy of Catholic hospitals regarding emergency contraception can be altered by legislation, then the next effort will most likely be to force Catholic hospitals to perform abortions.

“The Catholic health care system has provided the citizens of Connecticut with a high standard of care for decades.  These institutions should not be forced to violate their religious beliefs, especially those concerning the human dignity of every person, no matter at what stage of life,” the conference said in a statement.

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