Some weeks are easier to select topics for consideration than others and I must admit that recent events make this duty a bit more challenging this week than many others. I have already mentioned the death of my mother and though this continues to affect me I do not wish to make this personal event the subject of another consideration. Instead I think it is important to address another of the life issues, namely that of emergency contraception or Plan B.
Most Catholics, even those who wrongly maintain that artificial contraception is not immoral, usually recognize the necessity to respect and preserve newly conceived human life. This becomes the central question in evaluating the moral acceptability of emergency contraception in the case of sexual assault. Catholic principles do allow for the treatment of victims of assault, including treatment with those mechanisms required to impede the progress of sperm or the process of ovulation in order to preclude the conception of a child. Once conception has occurred then the duty to protect and preserve new innocent human life is exactly the same as that duty to protect and preserve new innocent human life conceived in the context of a mutually consensual relationship. This is necessary because otherwise we would be changing the value of the life of a child depending upon the circumstances in which a child was conceived. Once the existence of a new human being has been established then the life of that human being must be absolutely respected. Thus the use of a mechanism which is exclusively contraceptive presents no dilemma for emergency rooms including those in Catholic hospitals. In fact, there would be no difficulty or controversy at all if there were a mechanism which could be employed which was, in fact, exclusively contraceptive. Unfortunately I am not aware of any such mechanism and I believe that I am unaware of any such mechanism because such a mechanism does not exist.
The answer to this question may not be able to be given with certainty and I maintain that it must be given with certainty in order to proceed with Plan B. The utilization of Plan B without this certainty runs the unjustifiable risk of destroying new life while ostensibly intending to prevent the assault from engendering that life. It turns an uncaring eye to the new life which may have already begun.
Some would maintain that since the intention is to prevent a pregnancy which may result from the unjust aggression of the assault it is legitimate to use Plan B even if the remote possibility of a pregnancy has not been absolutely eliminated. They suggest that a lesser degree of certainty of absence of pregnancy suffices. They suggest that even if a pregnancy does in fact exist the lack of knowledge about that pregnancy and the sole intention to prevent a pregnancy and not destroy one eliminates moral wrongdoing. They fail to recognize that we may not play this kind of roulette with the existence of a human life. It is illegitimate, even with good motives, to directly cause the death of a pre-born child. Intervention with Plan B without ascertaining with certainty the absence of an existing pregnancy is a direct attack on the life of that child and this is morally illegitimate.
There is no doubt that the intention of trauma treatment is to protect the woman who has suffered an assault but this must not extend to the destruction of an innocent child.
There is certainly a lack of respect in our country for pre-born human life but we in the Catholic community and our Catholic health care facilities must not in any way condone or cooperate in that promotion of the culture of death.