Connecticut contraceptive clash

A big fight's brewing over Plan B in the state's Roman Catholic hospitals.

Published March 14, 2006 10:21PM (EST)

So here's the latest round of troubling news in the battle to make the emergency contraceptive known as Plan B available for women who need it. (Broadsheet recently reported on the political debate surrounding the Food and Drug Administration's review of whether to make the so-called morning-after pill available without a prescription.) If taken within 72 hours of unprotected sex, it reduces the risk of pregnancy by up to 89 percent.

Anyway, the Connecticut Legislature is joining several other states in finally considering a bill that would require hospitals to make Plan B available to rape victims. But the state's Roman Catholic Church leaders recently decided that the medication can't be dispensed in their four hospitals if a woman has already released an egg that could have been fertilized, according to an Associated Press article published yesterday. That way, the pill couldn't end a possible pregnancy, since most Catholics believe life starts at conception. Known as the Peoria Protocol after a Catholic hospital in Peoria, Ill., it requires emergency room doctors to first determine whether a woman has ovulated before giving her the pill and a cup of water. Besides being a fun test in the aftermath of rape trauma, this supposed compromise doesn't make sense from, like, a biological standpoint. What's the point of giving out the pill if it can't prevent an unwanted pregnancy?

Now, it gets really incomprehensible. If the church denies you emergency contraception, the Peoria Protocol requires that doctors give you a list of where you can get it and will provide transportation there. So the church won't endorse pill popping on its property but will still help you get it elsewhere? Huh?

Supporters of the bill argue that Connecticut's Catholic leaders are being too conservative, especially since bishops in other states have approved fewer restrictions. "This is an extreme Catholic position that is not justifiable in the context of even the Catholic health ethical guidelines on the treatment of women who've been raped," Frances Kissling, president of Catholics for a Free Choice, told the AP. "A woman who has been raped should be given comprehensive treatment in the first place she goes."

Currently, several other states require hospitals to provide Plan B, and Catholic medical centers are not exempt. (However, such hospitals in New Jersey and New York don't have to dispense it if a woman is already pregnant.)

In the meantime, it will be interesting to see how this battle plays out in the Connecticut Statehouse. And if you find yourself needing Plan B at the wrong time of the month in one of the state's Catholic hospitals, ask a doctor to call you a taxi.

By Sarah Elizabeth Richards

Sarah Elizabeth Richards is a journalist based in New York. She can be reached at

MORE FROM Sarah Elizabeth Richards

Related Topics ------------------------------------------

Broadsheet Love And Sex