In a religious freedom/liberty conflict among religious
employers, employees, and students, who wins?
Misinformation about emergency contraception.
Lawsuits brought by mostly Catholic organizations.
Does emergency contraception cause abortions?
As described in the previous essays, all of the Roman Catholic and conservative Protestant information sources that we have seen claim that emergency contraception medication can induce an abortion by preventing a blastocyst from implanting in the inner lining of the womb.
Most Protestant denominations consider birth control a private decision for each couple. Their main objection to the HHS mandate is that fundamentalist and other evangelical denominations and para-church groups sincerely believe that emergency contraception medication (EC) can induce an abortion.
EC medication is commonly called the "morning after pill." However, the name is confusing, because a woman need not wait until the next morning, and the pills are still reasonably effective at preventing pregnancy if taken within 72 hours of unprotected intercourse.
When the FDA originally approved the medication, there was no consensus among medical researchers about the mechanism(s) by which it worked. Some speculated that it might work by:
- Inhibiting ovulation and/or by
- Inhibiting conception if ovulation had occurred, and/or by
- Inhibiting the ability of the blastocyst -- the recently-fertilized ovum -- to implant itself in the inner wall of the uterus.
According to a 2012-JUN report on emergency contraception:
"ECPs do not interrupt an established pregnancy, defined by medical authorities such as the United States Food and Drug Administration / National Institutes of Health and the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists as beginning with implantation." 6
Thus, no matter how it functions, there is a medical consensus that EC is a birth control medication that prevents pregnancy, not an abortifacient that ends a pregnancy.
However, most pro-life groups have their own definition of the start of pregnancy. They teach that pregnancy begins at conception and that human life -- in the form of a living single cell containing human DNA -- becomes a human person at some time during the process of fertilization. To them, if EC could act by inhibiting implantation, then they would regard it as a possible abortifacient -- an abortion-inducing drug. Over time, many pro-life groups began to regard EC as primarily acting as an abortifacient. More recently they often refer to EC medication simply as an abortifacient. Thus we see comments like the two quotations in the previous essay.
The passage of time has produced clarity. There is now a concensus in medicine that EC works exclusively by inhibiting ovulation and/or conception. Unfortunately, many pro-life groups continue to state as a fact that EC is an abortifacient.
The Emergency Contraception Website, is operated by the Office of Population Research at Princeton University and by the Association of Reproductive Health Professionals. The site "has no connection with any pharmaceutical company or for-profit organization" and its essays are "peer reviewed by a panel of independent experts." 7 They state that the emergency contraceptive pills work:
"... primarily, or perhaps exclusively, by delaying or inhibiting ovulation (release of your egg). It is possible that EC may affect the movement of egg or sperm (making them less likely to meet), interfere with the fertilization process, or prevent implantation of a fertilized egg. 8
They also state:
There is no evidence to suggest that either of the FDA-approved emergency contraceptive options ... works after an egg is fertilized. In two recent studies of the levonorgestrel regimen, women who presented for EC were monitored to identify their menstrual cycle day and ascertain which women took EC before ovulation, 9,10 and which took it after. Among women taking LNG before ovulation, there were no pregnancies. Among those who took it on the day of ovulation or after, there were about the number of pregnancies that would be expected with no use of EC; if LNG were effective at preventing implantation, it would most certainly be more effective when taken after ovulation. A 2010 study 11 of ulipristal acetate (ella) found that at certain doses, it can decrease the thickness of the endometrium (by 0.6 to 2.2 mm), but it is not clear that this would in fact prevent the implantation of a fertilized egg. 12
Many pro-life groups also refer to religiously affiliated employers having to provide contraceptive medication, devices and procedures to their employees,
as in the above quotation. Actually, the employers only provide access to health care plans. It is up to the interaction of the government and the insurance company to determine whether these plans include access to birth control.
It is important to realize that the ultimate decision on whether to avail themselves of these provisions of the plan is the choice of the employee. The employer pays a fixed rate for the plan, irrespective of whether the employee chooses birth control or not. The insurance company "provides" birth control; the employer is "out of the loop."
Lawsuits against the HHS mandate:
On 2012-JUL-16, Wheaten College in Illinois joined the Catholic University of American in a lawsuit against the Health and Human Services (HHS) mandate in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia. Wheaton College President Dr. Philip Graham Ryken said that the college decided to initiate the lawsuit after the U.S. Supreme Court decided in June that the Affordable Care Act was constitutional. Although Wheaton College has no objection to married couples using birth control pills, they are unwilling to provide emergency contraceptives because of their belief that EC can induce abortion.
According to Monifa Thomas, the health reporter for the Chicago Sun Times:
"The alliance marks the first time that Catholics and evangelicals have worked together to oppose a regulation in court."
Wheaton College will be represented by The Becket Fund for Religious Liberty. The Fund reported that dozens of lawsuits have been filed to date to challenge the HHS mandate.
Thomas writes that HHS:
"... spokesman Keith Maley said the administration is developing additional accommodations in response to concerns raised by religious organizations that do not want to pay for, refer for, or provide contraception.
'We will consider the comments and suggestions received from interested stakeholders before finalizing and implementing policies that respect religious liberty while ensuring millions of women have access to recommended preventive services without cost-sharing,' Maley said.
The policy already ensures that if a woman works for a religious employer with objections to providing contraceptive services as part of its health plan, the religious employer will not be required to provide, pay for or refer for contraception coverage, but her insurance company will be required to directly offer her contraceptive care free of charge.
That, however, is considered a 'shell game' by many religious organizations." 13
A list of lawsuits as published by The Becket Fund:
All 180 Catholic bishops who head a diocese in the U.S. has issued a statement condemning the HHS mandate.
Most of the lawsuits are by hospitals, universities, colleges, agencies or other organizations affiliated with the Roman Catholic Church. Most of the lawsuits by Dioceses and Archdioceses include additional plaintiffs like :
- Archdiocese of New York et al.
- Archdiocese of St. Louis, MO
- Ave Maria University in Ave Maria, FL
- Belmont Abbey College
- Catholic University of America, et al.
- Diocese of Dallas, TX.
- Diocese of Erie, PA,et al.
- Diocese of Fort Wayne, IN, et al.
- Diocese of Jackson, MS, et al.
- Diocese of Joliet, IL, et al.
- Diocese of Pittsburgh, PA,et al.
- Diocese of Springfield, IL.
- EWTN (Eternal Word Television Network)
- Legatus (Catholic business association)
- Michigan Catholic Conference et al.
- Priests for Life, Staten Island, NY
- University of Notre Dame
Some non-Catholic institutions have also filed lawsuits or planned to do so:
- Colorado Christian University (nondenominational)
- Geneva College, PA (Reformed Presbyterian)
- Louisiana College (Baptist)
Some states have filed lawsuits:
Some individuals and secular companies:
- O'Brien Industrial Holdings
- Hercules Industries Inc. 14,15
How you may have arrived here:
The following information sources were used to prepare and update the above
essay. The hyperlinks are not necessarily still active today.
- Rachel K. Jones and Joerg Dreweke, "Countering conventional wisdom: New evidence on religion and contraceptive use," Guttmacher Institute, 2011-APR, at: http://www.guttmacher.org/
- "Will our church be subject to a conscience tax?, Speak Up - Church, 2012-JUN-08, at: http://blog.speakupmovement.org/
- Mat Cover, "Sebelius Claims 'No Abortifacient Drug' Covered by Contraception Mandate," CNS News, 2012-MAR-01, at: http://cnsnews.com/
- "USCCB: HHS Mandate for Contraceptive and Abortifacient Drugs Violates Conscience Rights," United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, 2011-AUG-01, at: http://www.usccb.org/
- Steven Ertelt, "Obama Admin Told to Rescind Pro-Abortion HHS Mandate," Life News, 2012-JUN-18, at: http://www.lifenews.com/
- James Trussell & Elizabeth G. Raymond, "Emergency Contraception," A last chance to prevent unintended pregnancy," Princeton University, 2012-JUN, at: http://ec.princeton.edu/
- The Emergency Contraception Website is at: http://ec.princeton.edu/
- "How emergency contraception works: Does emergency contraception cause an abortion?," Princeton University, at: http://ec.princeton.edu/
- N. Novikova, et al., " Effectiveness of levonorgestrel emergency contraception given before or after ovulation - a pilot study." Contraception 2007;75: Pages 112-118.
- G. Noé, et al., "Contraceptive efficacy of emergency contraception with levonorgestrel given before or after ovulation." Contraception 2011;84: Pages 486-492.
- P. Stratton. et al., "Endometrial effects of a single early luteal dose of the selective progesterone receptor modulator CDB-2915," Fertility and Sterility 2010;93: Pages 2035-2041.
- "How emergency contraception works: How does emergency contraception prevent pregnancy?," Princeton University, at:http://ec.princeton.edu/
- Monifa Thomas, "Wheaton College joins suit opposing contraception mandate," Chicago Sun Times, 2012-JUL-18, at: http://www.suntimes.com/
- Thomas Peters, "51 Catholic (+16 Religious) Institutions Opposing Obama/HHS Mandate," Catholic Vote, at: http://www.catholicvote.org/
- "HHS Mandate Information Central," The Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, as read on 2012-JUL-25, at: http://www.becketfund.org/
Copyright © 2012 by Ontario Consultants on Religious
Originally written: 2012-JUL-08
Latest update: 2012-JUL-25
Author: B.A. Robinson