The National Catholic Bioethics Center has issued a statement on the Connecticut Bishop’s decision to allow Plan B without an ovulation test. This is a very informative statement that covers both the medical and ethical dimensions of this.
The role of bishops.
Bishops do not write medical protocols; health care professionals and medical institutions do that. If a protocol concerns a procedure that has ethical implications, it will be submitted to a bishop for his ethical judgment reached in consultation with medical and ethical experts. If the bishop is convinced the procedure will not violate the moral law, he will not stand in the way of its being implemented. He will basically grant what is called a �nihil obstat� which basically means there are no moral objections to the implementation of this protocol. Bishops simply do not have the competence to adjudicate between competing scientific claims about the mechanisms of drugs.
In matters that have not yet been decided definitively by the Holy See, The National Catholic Bioethics Center has refrained from adopting one or another position on a disputed question. However, in the matter of protocols for sexual assault, there is virtual unanimity that an ovulation test should be administered before giving an anovulant medication. The protocol the NCBC has supported requires the ovulation test because it provides greater medical and moral certitude that the intervention will have its desired anovulatory effect. The NCBC objects strongly to state mandates, such as those passed by Connecticut and Massachusetts, that do not allow health care professionals and facilities to exercise their best medical judgment and which do not protect the consciences of all parties. We also object to state mandates that do not allow the victim of sexual assault to have all the information necessary for a medical intervention so that she might make an informed judgment. However, the NCBC understands the judgment of the Connecticut bishops that the administration of a contraceptive medication in the absence of an ovulation test is not an intrinsically evil act. However, it is immoral to violate one’s conscience, including the corporate consciences of health care agencies, and the unwillingness of the state to allow an exemption of conscience makes the law unjust and onerous.
You can read the full statement a the Catholics United for the Faith blog.
CUF is a great organization and I love their CUF Blog motto "Think with the Church!"
I have trouble respecting the National Catholic Bioethics Center on this issue, as their position on the morality of using vaccines manufactured using cell lines derived from aborted fetuses seems extremely troubling to me.
They appear to take the position that Catholics are all but required to use vaccines to promote public health, even if the vaccines are manufactured using cells that originally came from an aborted fetus. They do not address the problem that Catholic acquiescence in and use of these vaccines definitely encourages the continued use of aborted fetuses in vaccine research and manufacture; further, by placing a moral obligation on parents to use these vaccines (such as the rubella vaccine) on the grounds that the parents will be morally at fault if, say, a pregnant woman contracts rubella from their unvaccinated child; this perspective completely ignores the fact that the efficacy of the rubella vaccine has never been proved, and that there are legitimate safety concerns which might make parents choose their own child’s health over that of the unknown adult in this extremely unlikely hypothetical situation (who can, of course, choose to receive the vaccine herself before becoming pregnant).
Considering that their position on the morality of the use of vaccines derived from aborted fetuses would also make it likely that the NCBC would approve embryonic stem cell treatments if any were manufactured and entered the public health realm, I’m not sure I find them all that trustworthy on the question of whether Plan B is morally licit in these circumstances–especially since “morally licit” and “not intrinsically evil” are not at all the same thing.
“Considering that their position on the morality of the use of vaccines derived from aborted fetuses would also make it likely that the NCBC would approve embryonic stem cell treatments if any were manufactured and entered the public health realm,”
I sincerely doubt that! As the position of the National Bioethical Council, holds that position, i.e. that the use of the vaccine is material, mediate, and remote cooperation with abortion to be that of the CDF under Cardinal Ratizger aka His Awesomeness Benedict XVI.
Although I appreciate your concern, I think a little more research is to be done before you knock the NBC.
They are correct in both cases.
To sum up what I said above, quote from a document I cited, cite the document I quoted, and spell Ratzinger correctly:
To summarize, it must be confirmed that:
-there is a grave responsibility to use alternative vaccines and to make a conscientious objection with regard to those which have moral problems;
– as regards the vaccines without an alternative, the need to contest so that others may be prepared must be reaffirmed, as should be the lawfulness of using the former in the meantime insomuch as is necessary in order to avoid a serious risk not only for one’s
own children but also, and perhaps more specifically, for the health conditions of the population as a whole – especially for pregnant women;
– the lawfulness of the use of these vaccines should not be misinterpreted as a declaration of the lawfulness of their production, marketing and use, but is to be understood as being a passive material cooperation and, in its mildest and remotest sense, also active, morally justified as an extrema ratio due to the necessity to provide for the good of one’s children and of the people who come in contact with the children (pregnant women);
– such cooperation occurs in a context of moral coercion of the conscience of parents, who are forced to choose to act against their conscience or otherwise, to put the health of their children and of the population as a whole at risk. This is an unjust alternative choice, which must be eliminated as soon as possible
Oh and here is the NBC actually opinion on the topic:
Thank you for your kind comments about CUF and about our new blog.
As for Red’s comments, I must say that he doesn’t really speak to the issues. Rather, his premise is that the NCBC is not reliable generally, therefore in this instance its opinion isn’t to be given credence. Fair enough; I understand where he’s coming from on this.
As I note on the blog, this issue has caused much confusion among Catholics, and many commentators have plenty to say on this issue.
My approach was to consult Fr. Tad Pacholczyk, who is internationally known as an expert on difficult bioethics issues, for his opinion. (And btw, he has arguably been the most articulate and effective opponent of embryonic stem cell research in this country.) Because of top-notch, orthodox ethicists like Fr. Tad and John Haas, the NCBC has become the place where the “good guys” (e.g., Archbishop Chaput) turn for solid information. So when Fr. Tad gave me this statement from the NCBC, I posted it.
Next week I will blog on the subject in more detail, laying out some of the moral issues that are at work in all this.
Ovulation tests don’t work if used once, and after serious physical and psychic trauma. The whole point of an OT is to measure an hormonal spike over time (3-7days). Since it is extraordinarily improbable that any victim could be accurately tested before taking Plan B, the Bishops have effectively given there support to the drug. This is abominable.
James, think about this for a second. If the use of the vaccines is material, mediate, and remote cooperation, wouldn’t using treatments derived from embryonic stems cells also be material, mediate, and remote?
Say an embryo is allowed to develop for a certain number of days. At that time, stem cells are harvested, and the ‘parent’ embryo is destroyed. Next, the cells are cloned, just as they are in vaccine production. By the time a treatment is manufactured using cell lines cloned from the initial ‘parent’ embryo, wouldn’t a patient using this treatment be in a situation where his cooperation with the evil of embryonic stem cell-derived medical treatment be *exactly* the same (material, mediate, remote) as the person using vaccines derived from aborted fetal cell lines?
Second, I reject the idea that parents who sincerely believe (as I do) that vaccines do more harm than good to the health of those to whom they are administered have a moral obligation to do this harm to our children in order to avoid moral culpability on the extremely remote chance that our children will give someone else a disease. In every recorded outbreak of so-called “vaccine preventable” illnesses, most of the people who become ill have had full or partial vaccination against the disease, so why should I be morally culpable if someone else’s vaccine had no protective effect?
Mr. Suprenant, I will be looking forward to your further explanation of this particular issue (my problem with the NCBC aside). The way it appears to me, though, is that the bishops are saying:
-it is immoral for Plan B to be used as emergency contraception under ordinary circumstances, because contraception is immoral.
-it is not immoral to use Plan B *as emergency contraception* in the case of rape.
(So far, fine. This seems to be the current Catholic moral position.)
-Abortion is intrinsically evil. Administering a known abortifacient, even after rape, is intrinsically evil.
-There is some question about whether Plan B is abortifacient. It is generally considered not to be since it will not expel an implanted embryo–and the current medical definition of pregnancy is that pregnancy begins at implantation, not fertilization.
-However, Catholics believe that pregnancy (and therefore the life of the unborn human) begins at conception, which may occur six to ten days prior to implantation.
-Although there is grave reason to suspect that Plan B WILL IN FACT act as an abortifacient during that six to ten day time frame after conception but prior to implantation, this has so far not been proved to be the case, and some deny it even as a possibility.
-Since we can’t PROVE that Plan B acts as an abortifacient, and since it is not our job to test the drug for this effect, and since the legislature of Connecticut has forbidden us to administer an ovulation test to rape victims, and since it isn’t intrinsically evil to administer a *potential* but not a *known* abortifacient to a woman who may, in fact, have conceived, we have decided to comply with the law.
This is very muddled thinking, and raises the obvious question:
What will the Connecticut bishops do if it can be proved, beyond any shadow of a doubt, that Plan B will in fact end the life of a developing human in the time period between day one and days six through ten post-conception? In other words, if Plan B’s status changes from a “possible” abortifacient to a “known” abortifacient will the bishops at that time immediately cease their compliance with this law?
“If the use of the vaccines is material, mediate, and remote cooperation, wouldn’t using treatments derived from embryonic stems cells also be material, mediate, and remote?”
There are some distinctions being papered over in this analogy. First, ESCR research (and presumably any treatments) continually relies upon embryonic destruction. To my knowledge, vaccines derived from an aborted fetus were one-time atrocities, and the cell cultures derived from that event have continued on for generations.
I think a useful analogy here is some property that was stolen once, decades back. Though one may have inherited or bought stolen property from someone who bought that property from someone who stole it, one’s culpability for the original crime is negligible, even non-existent. Whereas benefit from an activity that itself encourages continual crimes is far more morally proximate and thus culpable.
Kevin Jones said, “There are some distinctions being papered over in this analogy. First, ESCR research (and presumably any treatments) continually relies upon embryonic destruction.”
That’s actually my point of contention, Mr. Jones; once ESCR ‘treatments’ are available they will be, as far as I know, just like the vaccine situation. In fact, current government-funded ESCR research is being done only on cell lines derived before the funding began, so presumably the use of cloned embryonic cells is similar to the use of cell lines in vaccines: ESCR *treatments* will not require continued destruction, but ESCR *research* will.
Further, vaccine *production* may not require continued abortion for those vaccines which are derived from aborted fetuses, but vaccine manufacturers continue to use aborted fetuses in the research and development of vaccines.
The rubella vaccine, for instance, was derived from the lung cells of an aborted female fetus whose mother had been exposed to German Measles, but prior to this fetus being used hundreds of other women with potential rubella exposure were encouraged to abort as the vaccine company searched for cells it could use. All of that happened long ago, but the lack of public outcry and the easy acceptance of the vaccine certainly didn’t discourage the manufacturers of the chickenpox vaccine, a much shorter time ago, from employing similar use of aborted fetuses in their research and development.
Since people of faith have said that despite our moral reservations we *will* use these vaccines, what’s to stop vaccine manufacturers from increasingly turning to human fetal cells in their research and development?
Further, if someone manufactures a treatment for Parkinson’s that uses cloned embryonic cells derived from an embryo destroyed during research several years ago, which the manufacturer can continue to clone as needed, on what grounds would Catholics object to or refuse such treatment?
I am glad to see such thoughtful comments on the vaccine/abortion issue but I do want to set the record straight on a couple things:
1) There were over 80 abortions before successfully isolating the rubella virus and cultivating it on WI-38.
2) Researchers at the Wistar Institute and Merck worked directly with the abortionists to gather their fetal specimens from Sweden, specifically for the intention of creating a cell line to be used for vaccine production
3) Like embryonic stem cell research, it took a long time to perfect a cell line that would actually work…they are not there yet with embryonic cell lines, but they will be.
4) Once the embryonic cell line is perfected, there will be no further destruction of human life and so, you did guess correctly: anyone using a product in the future that is taken from these embryonic cell lines will only be guilty of remote material cooperation (per the NCBC)
The fact is that until very recently, no one understood the horrific history of the abortions involved in the production of the vaccines. While that was our mission at CoG for Life – to educate the public on the truth including our bishops and the NCBC, no one listened. Except the Vatican.
There is a lot you can do to help – especially in pushing for our legislation with your own Congressmen and Senators. Go to http://www.cogforlife.org for general information and click on the link where it says Children of God for Life introduces Fair Labeling and Informed Consent Act. This is a faithful response to what the Vatican is asking all of us to do…we need your help if we are going to put an end to this injustice! God bless all of you!!
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