Massachusetts Catholic Morning After Pill Protocols Could Spark Lawsuit

State   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Dec 11, 2005   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

Massachusetts Catholic Morning After Pill Protocols Could Spark Lawsuit Email this article
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by Steven Ertelt Editor
December 11, 2005

Boston, MA ( — New rules adopted by the Massachusetts state legislature requiring all medical facilities to distribute the morning after pill to women who have been victimized by rape may lead to a lawsuit over whether Catholic and private hospitals are required to follow them and to what extent.

Caritas Holy Family is part of a six-member hospital chain owned and operated by the Archdiocese of Boston and officials there say women who have been raped will get the Plan B drugs, but only after they have had a pregnancy test.

The Catholic medical facility officials don’t want to use the drug on pregnant women because it can sometimes cause an abortion.

The new law says rape victims can get the morning after pill "upon request" and whether the new Catholic facility regulations achieve that or not is something state officials won’t answer.

The Eagle Tribune newspaper in North Andover contacted the office of Governor Mitt Romney, the state health department and Attorney General Thomas Reilly. None would say whether the rules violate the state law and Reilly spokesman Terence Burke told the newspaper it couldn’t comment on a hypothetical.

Caritas told the newspaper that the new protocols were necessary to keep the hospitals in line with guidelines put forward by the nation’s Catholic bishops.

"’Appropriate testing’ is a pregnancy test," said Caritas Holy Family spokeswoman Suzanne Tammaro. "If it’s negative, (emergency contraception) is given."

While state officials may not yet have a problem with the pregnancy test guidelines, abortion advocates do and it could lead to a lawsuit.

"This isn’t an issue of religious freedom because Catholic hospitals are not places of worship," said Planned Parenthood spokesman Angus McQuilken of the Caritas policy. "They’re a health-care provider funded by taxpayer dollars, and taxpayers have a right to insist they follow the law."

McQuilken claimed the new protocol from the Catholic hospitals was unnecessary because he believe the drug never causes an abortion.

The guidelines were necessary after Romney promised that the state health department would issue an exemption for Catholic and private hospitals to not be forced to distribute the drugs. Romney backtracked when state lawmakers and Reilly said the new law trumps an older one saying such medical facilities are not required to distribute contraception or perform abortions.