Catholic Barriers to Plan B
According to William Saletan [“The Birds and the Plan B’s,” Outlook, April 2], the attitudes of Catholic hospitals toward emergency contraception (EC) are far from liberal. The majority refuse to provide emergency conception at all, even to women who have been raped. Even among those that do, many place unnecessary barriers in the way; if there is evidence that the woman is already ovulating, even if fertilization has not occurred, it cannot be used.
A comprehensive study of the provision of emergency contraception in 597 Catholic emergency rooms in 2002 by Ibis Reproductive Health found that only 5 percent provide EC to women on request. A further 23 percent will provide it, but only to women who have been raped and only if they can prove they are not ovulating or already pregnant as a result of the rape. A full 55 percent do not provide it at all.
A follow-up study in 2005 found that more than a third (35 percent) of Catholic hospitals in the states that mandate the provision of emergency contraception to rape victims are still not providing EC.
In short, a woman who has been raped might receive emergency contraception at a Catholic hospital, but only if she is likely to not need it.
Catholics for a Free Choice
This letter originally appeared in the 11 April 2006 edition of the Washington Post.