FaithWorld

German Catholic Church may back some morning-after pills after cardinal’s rethink

February 4, 2013

(Cologne cathedral on the Rhine River, August 18, 2005. REUTERS/Pawel Kopczynski )

Germany’s Catholic Church may approve some so-called morning-after pills for rape victims after a leading cardinal unexpectedly announced they did not induce abortions and could be used in Catholic hospitals.

Cardinal Joachim Meisner of Cologne, an ally of German-born Pope Benedict, changed his policy after two Catholic hospitals refused to treat a rape victim because they could not prescribe the pill, which is taken after sex to avoid pregnancy.

The Catholic Church firmly opposes abortion and artificial birth control. Many Catholics see all emergency contraceptives as abortion-inducing drugs banned by this policy, but Meisner said some prevent fertilisation and could be used in rape cases.

“The German Bishops’ Conference is holding a regular meeting in two weeks and the issue will certainly be on the agenda,” Cologne archdiocese spokeswoman Nele Harbeke said on Monday.

“The bishops’ conference must in principle agree on a common line.”

Meisner, 79, has in the past rejected emergency contraceptives as producing a “just-in-case abortion”.

The pills have become a hot issue in the United States as many Catholics oppose President Barack Obama’s health reform in part because it mandates Catholic hospitals to provide birth control for female employees.

One pill, marketed as “Plan B” in the United States and based on the synthetic hormone levonorgestrel, is rejected by these critics as an abortifacient, but might meet Meisner’s criteria.

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