Friday, February 3, 2012
The Boston Globe is apparently so intent on impugning Mitt Romney and defending the Obama Administration's attack on religious freedom in the HHS mandate that it isn't letting facts get in the way. Today's Globe has a story about Governor Romney's support in 2005 of a requirement that all hospitals, including Catholic hospitals, provide sexual assault victims in an emergency room with Plan B contraception, which the Globe says is "similar" to the Obama Administration's current policy under the HHS mandate. The only problem with that charge of hypocrisy against Governor Romney is that the two policies are about entirely different things. When a number of states enacted requirements that all hospitals provide Plan B to sexual assault victims in the ER, the Catholic response was somewhat divided (summary article here), with the bishops of New York and Connecticut issuing statements agreeing to permit Catholic hospitals to follow the requirement. The USCCB Ethical and Religious Directives clearly permit administration of drugs to sexual assault victims to prevent pregnancy ("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," no. 36), though there has been considerable debate about whether hospitals should administer both an ovulation and a pregnancy test and whether Plan B acts as an abortifacient. See Daniel P. Sulmasy, “Emergency Contraception for Women Who Have Been Raped: Must Catholics Test for Ovulation, or Is Testing for Pregnancy Morally Sufficient?” Kennedy Institute of Ethics Journal 16, no. 4 (December 2006): 305-31, and Nicanor P. G. Austriaco, OP, “Is Plan B an Abortifacient? A Critical Look at the Scientific Evidence,” National Catholic Bioethics Quarterly 7.4 (Winter 2007): 703–707. What is clear is that the HHS mandate isn't about emergency care of sexual assault victims in Catholic hospitals but is instead a requirement that a range of Catholic institutions cover contraceptives (including Ella, a drug with undisputed abortifacient properties) and sterilization procedures in their health insurance plans. The underlying issues in disputes about conscience protection are important, and obfuscating the facts in different cases doesn't help.