January 23, 2007

Plan B for Plan B?

Apparently, if you are a rape victim at Connecticut hospitals, you might very well need a Plan B for the emergency contraception known as Plan B. According to Connecticut Sexual Assault Crisis Services, an umbrella group representing rape crisis counselors, in the first half of 2006, 40 percent of rape victims “were not offered the medication or were sent home without the full dose of the drug needed to prevent pregnancy.”

The Hartford Courant reports that although that group and others are now pushing for legislation that would require hospitals to offer it as a routine part of rape examinations, they are facing stiff opposition from the Catholic Church. A similar bill failed last year.

“This tiny pill does not need to be given in a hospital,” said Barry Feldman, a spokesman for the state’s four Catholic hospitals. And he’s right, in one sense. The Plan B pills are available over the counter in Connecticut. But, unlike at the drug store, the state reimburses the hospitals for providing Plan B as part of a rape examination. Normally, it would cost between $40-$60, and it is only available to women (and men) age 18 and older.

Another important factor is time: The pills are 95 percent effective if taken within the first 24 hours after unprotected sex; the effectiveness rate is about 60 percent if taken 48 to 72 hours later. Why should a sexual assault victim — who is already at a hospital that dispenses medication of all kinds — have to search elsewhere for two tiny, yet essential, pills?

Connecticut Sexual Assault Crisis Services emphasizes that the problem is occurring in secular as well as Catholic hospitals, but it is the fervent Catholic opposition that seems to be blocking the law.

Plus: St. John’s University in New York, one of the nation’s largest Roman Catholic universities, is prohibiting the on-campus performance of Eve Ensler’s “Vagina Monologues” — “We fully support the value of raising awareness and education on systematic violence against women,” the Rev. James J. Maher, the university’s vice president of student affairs, said in a statement. “As part of our obligation to the entire university community, we also reserve the right not to support student life activities that we deem inappropriate.”

In 2006, Notre Dame and Providence College withdrew campus support for “The Vagina Monologues,” though Notre Dame’s president later reversed his decision.

Inside Higher Ed last year published a very good article about the debate at Catholic institutions.


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