Sex, Punishment, and Plan B

In the comments on my previous post on the Connecticut bishops’ decision to allow Catholic hospitals to administer the Plan B “morning after pill” to rape victims who do not pass a pregnancy test, Adriana offers some very astute comments:

“There is something a bit sickening about the idea that abortion should be allowed in case of rape. Why? Because since the woman was an innocent party, then she does not deserve to carry a baby to term. She cannot be punished when she is not guilty.

“Somehow the baby got identified with punishment for the sin of fornication. If you consented to have sex, then the baby is your punishment and should not be allowed to abort because you are evading punishment, but if you were innocent, then of course, abortion is your right.”

Sadly, it appears that the Connecticut bishops have been affected by this mindset.  I’m not suggesting that they are intentionally sanctioning chemical abortion.  On the contrary, they make it clear that they don’t think that the use of Plan B amounts, in some cases, to a chemical abortion:

“If it becomes clear that Plan B pills would lead to an early chemical abortion in some instances, this matter would have to be reopened.”

Since Barr Pharmaceuticals, the makers of Plan B, have demonstrated to the FDA’s satisfaction that the drug works, in part, by preventing the implantation of a fertilized egg, we’re left with two options: Either the Connecticut bishops are being dishonest (by introducing doubts that Barr doesn’t have, or by saying that they researched the issue exhaustively, when they apparently didn’t even read the manufacturer’s materials); or something is clouding their judgment.

Being an inveterate optimist, I’m opting for option number 2.  But that, I think, is where Adriana’s insight comes into play.  See, for instance, the following line from Bishop William Lori of the diocese of Bridgeport, who tried to offer a “clarification” two days after the original statement:

“It’s not that the Church opposes administering Plan B to victims of rape; these women have suffered a gravely unjust assault.”

The sentence is constructed in such a way that we’re supposed to understand that, of course, the first part follows from the second.  But does it?  And if so, how?

It can follow only if the bishops have fallen for the mindset that Adriana has so acutely diagnosed.  Either the assault ended when the rape ended, in which case the only way to right the injustice is to bring the rapist to justice, or it continues on, and the use of Plan B can somehow mitigate the injustice.

If the latter is the case, however, then the bishops are saying precisely what Adriana laid out: A child conceived as a result of a rape is a punishment, a continuation of the rape, and therefore everything possible should be done to prevent such a conception.

Such reasoning is not only common today; it’s almost universal.  But it’s not Catholic, and it’s sad to see bishops of the Catholic Church get caught up in it.



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