Wisconsin bishop confronts legislature in emergency contraception dispute

Wisconsin bishop confronts legislature in emergency contraception dispute

Bishop Robert Morlino
Bishop Robert Morlino


Bishop Robert C. Morlino of the Diocese of Madison has urged opposition to a state bill that would mandate hospitals, including Catholic ones, to administer the morning after pill, “emergency contraception,” upon request to women who have been raped.

In the newspaper for the Diocese of Madison, Bishop Morlino explained to readers that the bill did not protect the consciences of institutions or individuals who want to protect both women who have been raped and any babies possibly conceived in that rape. 

“Women who have suffered the tragedy of rape need to be protected, but if a pre-born child has been already conceived, the future of that child also requires our protection,” he said.

Bishop Morlino expanded on his concerns in a letter to the members of the Wisconsin Legislature.  He insisted that the safety, inherent dignity, and God-given rights of women were deeply important. 

In fact, the bishop said that Catholic hospitals have always provided emergency contraception “when this was appropriate.”  He said that such treatment was appropriate when every effort had been made to ensure the drug would not prevent implantation of a newly conceived human being.  In cases where implantation was prevented, he explained, “this would amount to an abortion.”

The bishop said this was not a distinctively Catholic issue, “but a matter of biology and human rights.”

Bishop Morlino distanced himself from the earlier stance of the Wisconsin Conference of Catholic Bishops, which had adopted a neutral position towards the bill.  He said the position of neutrality did not have its desired effect, and inadvertently caused scandal among Catholics who began to believe the bishops were becoming less fervently pro-life.  Bishop Morlino also said Bishop Jerome Listecki of the Diocese of LaCrosse was supporting him in his new approach against the legislation.

In his letter to the legislature Bishop Morlino said he was “firmly convinced” that conscience exemptions to the bill were threatened.  He also questioned the motives of some supporters of the bill, saying, “It is clear that Planned Parenthood, NARAL, and their colleagues are more interested in promoting a state-supported, contraceptive ideology than they are in simply, reasonably, protecting women.”

Bishop Morlino said that the peace especially hoped for in the Christmas season can only happen “when there is respect for every human being, protecting every woman and every pre-born human child.”


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