Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Note on Contraception

You've probably heard about the brouhaha and hoo-hah that followed the decision by the Department of Health and Human Services to require religiously-affiliated employers (but not churches) to cover contraception in the health insurance it offers to employees. The Catholic Church, as you might expect, is quite exercised about this; in fact, the bishops sent out a letter to be read at Mass denouncing it.

Without getting into a long discussion, let me just make a secondary point. It is simply incorrect to say, as right-wingers have been doing, that the "morning-after pill" is an "abortion pill". The morning-after pill works by the same mechanism as conventional birth-control pills. It prevents ovulation and fertilization. It may also prevent implantation of a fertilized egg. If you, like the Catholic Church, regard a fertilized egg as a fetus, then you could call it an "abortion-inducing drug" as the bishops' letter did, but only if you're willing to make the same statement about ordinary birth-control pills.  (The bishops' letter doesn't specify which drugs they're talking about.) The bishops are doubtless willing to say that birth-control pills should be illegal; is Rick Santorum?

And I know this isn't relevant to the moral and constitutional issues, but I do wish the journalist had asked that outraged Catholic woman that I saw on TV this question: "Studies say 98 percent of Catholic women have at some time used a method of birth control other than natural family planning. Are you among the 98 percent or the 2 percent?"

BTW, I've sent an e-mail to the public information office at the Archdiocese of Boston asking for some clarifications about the bishops' letter. They warn that they don't have time to answer all mail, and so far they haven't answered mine.

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