For the first time, a Republican in the state Assembly is co-sponsoring a Democratic initiative that would require hospitals to offer emergency contraception to rape victims, considerably improving the bill’s chances of passage.
Significantly, the Wisconsin Catholic Conference, the public arm of Wisconsin’s bishops, is also no longer opposed to the bill.
Rep. Terry Musser, R-Black River Falls, said this morning he would begin circulating the Compassionate Care for Rape Victims bill to his Assembly colleagues today. Musser, who did not support the bill when it was introduced last session, said he changed his mind after hearing testimony from rape victims at a public hearing on the bill last week before a Senate committee.
…The only group lobbying against the bill is Pro-Life Wisconsin. Matt Sande, the group’s director of legislation, was not available for comment this morning, but said in a news release he opposed the bill because emergency contraception can work to prevent implantation of a fertilized egg in the uterus and he considers this "pre-implantation chemical abortion."
Wisconsin Right to Life, which tends to focus more on abortion issues, is not taking a stand on the bill. Sue Armacost of Wisconsin Right to Life said it was important to the group that the Catholic bishops were not opposing the bill.
Groups supporting it include the Wisconsin Public Health Association, American College of Nurse-Midwives, Planned Parenthood of Wisconsin, Wisconsin Coalition Against Domestic Violence and the Wisconsin Coalition Against Sexual Assault.
Kim Wades of the Wisconsin Catholic Conference said many Catholic hospitals are already dispensing emergency contraception to rape victims. She said the group removed its objections to the bill after it was revised to allow hospitals to give women a pregnancy test before providing emergency contraception.
The Catholic Conference’s support might make a big difference to legislators who have opposed the bill in the past, Musser said.
It is not quite true that the Wisconsin Catholic Conference is supporting the bill, only that it has withdrawn objections to it. As a press release from their conference states.
"From our perspective, we believe this bill is not necessary as Catholic health care already provides victims of sexual assault with appropriate and compassionate medical care."
…"As regards SB 129, it must be understood that our lack of opposition is contingent upon two points, said Wadas. "First the language exempting hospitals from providing emergency contraception to a victim known to be pregnant shall be interpreted as allowing Catholic hospitals the flexibility to follow testing protocols that establish with moral certitude that a pregnancy has not occurred. Science is providing medicine with new tools everyday and our Catholic hospitals must retain the freedom to use the latest technology to ensure that treatment does not result in the taking of a human life."
The Church has not spoken definitively on the use of contraception in the case of rape and the language in Humanae Vitae is specific to "conjugal or between married persons" as Jimmy Akin points out. So far in the United States the interpretation has been that it is licit in these circumstances if they women has not become pregnant.
As you would probably guess there are plenty of questions in regards to obtaining the moral certitude that the women is not already pregnant. A good article on the subject can be found at Catholic Insight.
Many Catholic hospitals interpret “appropriate testing” as a hcG pregnancy test, which is accurate only if a woman is at least one week pregnant by the time of the test. …
…The problem is that the test may be falsely negative if the pregnancy is too recent. A further problem is that the woman may have ovulated at the time of the rape or shortly afterwards and there is, at present, no test that can detect this with certainty.
The Catholic Insight article goes over the controversy and surveys the opinions of various moral theologians on this topic, the degree of certitude required, and the varieties of medical tests that might be required to get to that point.
This is an area where doctrine is developing such as the case of to whether embryos can be adopted and implanted. There is also the question to just how diligent Catholic hospitals will be in ascertaining if a women is pregnant first.
Legislation like this is really stupid in the first place though. There is zero need for any legislatures to be mandating what medicines are to be used by hospitals in the first place. It is all about agendas and getting the Catholic Church through her hospitals to knuckle down to their pressure.
Developing doctrine is messy and if anybody has further insights into this I would be glad to hear it, especially if I have mischaracterized anything.
Update: Lifesite also is covering the story.