German Cardinal says the Morning After pill is OK for rape victims

I’m stunned. Cardinal Joachim Meisner of Cologne, Germany said, “If, after a rape, a supplement is used with the intend of preventing fertilization, that is in my view justifiable.”

It appears the American bishops had already come to the same conclusion?

"In 2001 the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops issued their revised “Ethical and Religious Directives for Catholic Health Care Services”. Directive 36 states:

“A female who has been raped should be able to defend herself against a potential conception from the sexual assault. If after appropriate testing, there is no evidence that conception has occurred already, she may be treated with medications that would prevent ovulation, sperm capacitation, or fertilization. It is not permissible, however, to initiate or to recommend treatments that have as their purpose or direct effect the removal, destruction, or interference with the implantation of a fertilized ovum”.

I’m not familiar with this news source, so this may or may not be true, but according to this, the Vatican has made mention of the morning after pill for rape victims in limited circumstances:

"THE VATICAN has responded to mass rapes in Bosnia by reviving a decision that women in danger of rape may use contraceptives, even though its ban on contraception in normal circumstances remains.

"The ban on abortion remains absolute, although the Roman Catholic bishops of England and Wales have decided that the so-called morning-after pill may also be used by rape victims in certain circumstances.

"An article in the Jesuit magazine Civillta Catolica, which is approved before publication by the Vatican, argues that contraception is a legitimate form of self-defence for a rape victim. The author, Fr Giacomo Perico, says that rape is an act of violence, to which the rules applying to an act within marriage cannot apply.

‘In this particular situation, it is legitimate to use contraception to avoid a possible pregnancy. It is not then a refusal of a gift of love, but a form of legitimate self-defence.’"

It has to do with the context and the intention of each person involved.

In a rape situation, say a man forces himself on a woman, against her will and consent. It is not an act of love, his sperm in effect is considered a weapon that is being used against the woman. As in all cases of self defence, a person can take steps to prevent being attacked. Here, contraception is a means to defend against his sperm. It is important to distinguish, that contraception must NOT take a life if it has already formed. If a life is already formed, an abortion would be considered wrong even in that case as it takes a life.

In a case of a couple, who love each other, but who use contraception, the situation is different as they both consent to the sexual act, but refuse to be open to any life-thereby ‘blocking’ fertilisation from occuring.

I have no problem with a rape victim taking a medication that prevents an egg from joining with a sperm.

In particular, the rape was not conducive to being open to the possibility of life, since the rapist wouldn’t care about that. Rapists don’t rape to create babies - or if they did, they’d do so for the purpose of hurting the woman not for the love of the new life.

I completely agree with the Vatican’s eminently sensible pronouncement that in the case of rape it is right and just for the raped woman to take, as a matter of self-defence, medication that prevents conception - as opposed to abortifacients which kill an already conceived individual human being.

What is particularly interesting to me is that this advice has been around for 20 years - the article linked above was published in 1993. Yet nowhere do any of the detractors of the Catholic Church ever make mention of it, and that basically means more or less all of the media. In fact, this is the first time I’ve even heard of it, and I try to be aware of such things. I’m glad it’s there, but we need to make more of it to counter some of the appalling arguments about how “bad” the Church is in respect of women who are raped.

In fact the Church has even stated that if a nun or other chaste unmarried woman is living or working in a situation where she is LIKELY to be raped, she may licitly use non-abortifacient contraceptives (even for moths or years) in anticipation of the rape.

One reason why Catholics do not proclaim this louder is that most if not all hormonal contraceptives and the morning after pill, may possibly in some circumstances act as an abortifacient rather than a contraceptive, by preventing the already-conceived baby from implanting himself in the wall of his mother’s womb. Some say this can be averted in the case of the MAP by a pregnancy test, but this is disputed.

Oh wow, here is Cardinal against Cardinal in Germany. My heart goes out to the women in this situation, yet I do not recall that the Church would have changed its position from that expressed by Pope Paul VI in Humanae Vitae. :confused:

I fail to see how this is so shocking and it is the one thing that I cannot get my head around with the Catholic faith.

I posted a topic on this earlier as I am looking to convert but I would never condemn a rape victim for wanting to end an enforced pregnancy. Surely in cases such as this, more emphasis should be given to the victim and your concern, prayers and sympathy extended to her rather than condemn her for making a truly heart-breaking decision.

Nobody condemns a rape victim for the pregnancy she wishes she didn’t have to endure, but as Catholics who believe that every life is sacred, no matter how the circumstances of its beginning came about, we cannot square the circle to satisfy the mother’s anguish and to protect the new life that is innocent. We have to take the position that the life is sacred, no matter what.

It doesn’t mean we’re heartless or uncaring about the rape victim’s plight. We care deeply and passionately for her, but the problem is that there are now two people to care for.

Different issues here. I suspect the interviewers or whoever co-opted the Cardinal. He certainly did not mean to say that abortafacient drugs are acceptable. They are not and he knows as much.


If there were to be a drug one day that prevents conception after (of course) insemination but does not destroy the embryo/zygote once formed, that would be acceptable. I do not think the Morning After pill fits this, as that is an abortafacient.

Archdisoce of Berlin has posted a colum in which they say the Church is not divided over the pill

Cardinal’s personal statement does not change anything to Catholic doctrine which prohibts artificial contraceptives

Scientifically and morally, there is no way the Cardinal’s statement could be followed because there is no way to find out 100% if fertilisation has occured before 1 or 2 weeks after sexual intercourse which would then mean using the morning after pill before that date could mean you are killing a ferilized embryo which would be an abortifacient and if you find out a person is pregannt aftter the 1 or 2 weeks taking the pill would be an abortifacient

Maybe in the future there could be a test created where it could be 100% known whether fertilisation has occured immediately after sexual intercourse, but no test currently exists with that accuracy

Problem with directive 36: Only test to determine whether conception has occurred with 100% accuracy can be done 1 or 2 weeks have sexual intercourse has taken place but that means there is no case in which doctors would be able to follow the directive. If the woman is discovered to be pregnant and is given the morning after pill that would be an abortificant and if she is not pregnant there is no need for the pill

Problem with directive 36: Pill only works to stop ovulation 1/2 the time. Fertilization may happen after the pill has been administered, and an abortion would happen because the pill also weakens the lining of the uterus making the implantation of the egg not possible. Study by Dr Chris Kahlenborn in 2003 found that

There are problems with directive 36, on a moral and scientific grounds and what authority does it have? Where in the Magisterium does it say there can be an exception for use of the morning after pill?

Catholic Medical Association did not accept directive 36 in their annual meeting in 2003, their statement said the morning after pill

cannot be ethically employed by a Catholic physician or administered in a Catholic Hospital in cases of rape

The Pontifical Academy for Life says,

the absolute unlawfulness of abortifacient procedures also applies to distributing, prescribing and taking the morning-after pill. All who, whether sharing the intention or not, directly co-operate with this procedure are also morally responsible for it

In the case of sexual assault, a woman may repel the unjust aggressor (in this case, incapacitate or remove his sperm) or withhold herself from him (in this case, prevent ovulation) so as not to conceive. This is not the same as consenting to a sexual act, especially between married people, and deliberately frustrating the possibility of new life.

However, sexual assault does not justify abortion, because one is not repelling an unjust aggressor, but a separate innocent person.

A drug that is an abortifacient in some circumstances could be used in other circumstances where it would not cause an abortion. As has been pointed out, one must be able to determine these circumstances with reasonable accuracy.

You can not determine with accuracy until 1 to 2 weeks after sexual intercourse which would then mean you are either pregnant in which case taking the morning after pill would be an abortifacient or you are not pregnant

You are referring to the wrong test. What you are describing is a test for pregnancy.

What the doctors use is a blood test to detect OVULATION. This test is quite accurate, and can readily determine if the woman has OVULATED within the last 48 hours.

If the woman has not ovulated, there is no danger of an abortificant, as there can be no pregnancy to abort without an ovum first being present.

Our Lady of Good Success, pray for us!

Director of the Center for health and care ethnics at Saint Louis university, Rev Kevin D O’Rourke has written

Directive 36 sets forth the following procedure when treating rape victims:
• Conduct a pregnancy test to see if conception had already occurred.
• If there is no evidence of conception, treat the patient with a contraceptive medication,

These two steps are somewhat anomalous because no pregnancy test will be positive as the result of a recent rape.15 Indeed, if the test were to be positive, conception would have to have been the result of intercourse prior to the rape, because pregnancy tests are not reliable until 10 days after conception. The problem with the sec- ond procedure is that the medication usually given to suppress ovulation, Ovral, will also render the endometrium hostile to implantation by a fertilized ovum.16 If the drug is given after ovulation has occurred, and the woman has conceived as the result of the rape, an abortion will occur—the Ovral acting as an abortifacient.

The timing of ovulation is critical in preventing an Ovral-induced abortion. If ovulation has not occurred, then Ovral may be administered in the hope that it will at least delay ovulation. If ovulation is under way, or very recently completed, Ovral should not be used.

Is it possible to be so precise in determining the time of ovulation? Joseph J. I’iccione, JD, and Gerald McShanc, MD, both members of the Kthics Committee of St. Francis Medical Center in Peoria, IL, have recently devised a method by which occurrences of ovulation can be measured accurately.17 Employing this method, the obstetrician first gives the rape victim a progesterone level test and then uses a urine “dip stick” (Ovu Kit) to test for the presence of luteinizing hormone (LH). If the LH test is negative and supported by progesterone level findings, ovulation is not occurring and Ovral may be used. If the LH test is positive, the process of ovulation is under way and Ovral should not be used. The method seems to obviate the quandary that occurs when a rape victim is unsure whether she has ovulated.

In some states, a rape victim must be informed that she may visit a healthcare facility that will use medications to prevent the continuation of a pregnancy resulting from the rape. This legal obligation may cause ethical difficulties lor a obeying the law in this cooperation in an intrinsically evil act? Directive 36 calls on Catholic healthcare facilities to “cooperate with law enforcement officials [and] offer the person psychological and spiritual support and accurate medical information.” It seems the civil law can be followed in such a way that, at most, only mediate material cooperation results.

Another method of discerning whether ovulation has occurred is by examining the texture of the cervical mucus at the vulva of the rape victim’s vagina; this can be done with a test, called “ferning,” that assesses the capability of the mucus for transmitting spermatozoa.18 If the mucus is sticky, it will not allow the sperm to penetrate the reproductive tract. But if the mucus is stringy, that is a sign that ovulation has occurred, enabling the sperm to penetrate. Unfortunately, few emergency room physicians are adept at discerning the texture of cervical mucus, so ferning is not the standard of care followed in emergency rooms.19

Since about 50 percent of female rape victims are already using contraception, and since conception from rape is very rare, some people wonder why theologians seeking to apply the Church’s teachings are so concerned about measuring the time of ovulation. Although impregnating a woman through rape would be a great injustice, it would not be so great an injustice as killing an infant whom rape has brought into being. Thus the foregoing distinctions are required.

I fully agree with Fr. O’Rourke. In fact, he pointed out exactly what I had stated, the correct medical test is one for ovulation.

I see now that it was specifically the Directive that you were refereeing, not to the Church’s teaching. :blush:

Do they use the ovulation method that is most accurate in every Cathlic hospital?

Sorry but I find your comment shocking. I would never condemn an innocent child to death for a crime committed by his father. :eek:

Preventing a forced pregnancy is fine. Deliberately or recklessly ending a forced pregnancy (i.e. murder) is never OK.

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