Mirror of Justice

A blog dedicated to the development of Catholic legal theory.
Affiliated with the Program on Church, State & Society at Notre Dame Law School.

Monday, February 27, 2006

More on Contraceptives versus Abortifacients

Patrick Shrake (a recent graduate of the St. Thomas Law School) sent me the following on the distinction between contraception and abortifacients:

Everyone agrees that "conception" occurs when the ovum and sperm unite. I don't know if it is possible to find a reputable scientist that would argue that life does not begin at the moment-though many will argue about the value of that life. A simple understanding of English (& Latin) should lead everyone to agree that "contraception" means "against conception" and that a contraceptive works by working "against conception." However, many don't like the precision that such words formerly gave, and so a discussion of when "pregnancy" begins became important to organizations like the AMA.

Nonetheless, I think it useful to think of the matter like this: If a "contraceptive" works by preventing fertilization, then it is working as a contraceptive. If it works by preventing implantation, then it works by killing the already conceived embryo. I think the simplest word for that is abortifacient.

I think this is much cleaner than the language I was using in earlier posts, but it doesn't necessarily resolve the question I was posing.  It does, however, help me (I hope) to clarify the nature of my question:   Given that, in some undefined subset of cases, the use of certain hormonal contraceptives results in the indirect destruction of embryos by preventing implantation, what would the Church say (or has it said) about the therapeutic use of such a contraceptive.  Specifically, would the therapeutic use of such a contraceptive (for non-contraceptive, non-abortive purposes) be inherently impermissible such that the contraceptive is considered evil in itself, or would the therapeutic use of the contraceptive be susceptible to a double effect analysis?  I don't think this question is answered by the Pope's statement today, but I'm wondering whether the Vatican has addressed this question elsewhere.


| Permalink

TrackBack URL for this entry:


Listed below are links to weblogs that reference More on Contraceptives versus Abortifacients :