Even a Crime Doesn't Justify "Morning-After" Pill, Says Cardinal

Health Authorities in Chile Will Distribute It Free in Cases of Rape

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SANTIAGO, Chile, MAY 4, 2004 (Zenit.org).- The occurrence of a crime cannot justify the elimination of a life, says an archbishop in the wake of the Health Ministry's decision to distribute free the "morning-after" pill to rape victims.



The pill "is presented as a means to relieve the suffering and repair the injustice of which a dear or innocent person has been a victim, by an aggressor who invaded the victim's intimacy unjustly and violently," Cardinal Francisco Javier Errázuriz Ossa said in a letter circulated Sunday in all the churches of the capital.

"The free distribution of a medication whose objective is not to heal, is a more than controversial issue," the cardinal said.

"There is no lack of community authorities that are prepared to hand the pill out freely to those who request it, while others are opposed to it and express conscientious objection," he added.

In his letter, Cardinal Errázuriz reminds the faithful that "the exercise of their freedom has an insurmountable limitation: others' right to life," and notes that the morning-after pill has sparked a "great controversy": "Does it or does it not eliminate a human life?"

"For the approval of a new medication, it is necessary to prove positively that the latter is not a threat to the life of the human being," he writes. "This is why research should prove that the 'morning-after' pill (Levonorgestrel) does not impede the implantation of the fertilized ovule in the maternal womb, namely, that it does not eliminate a human life in the embryonic state."

In fact, "the laboratories that market it already advertise that one of its effects might be to impede the implantation of the fertilized ovule in the maternal womb, thus producing the loss of a human life," the cardinal states.

When "it is a question of human life, it is not licit to carry out an action, without having the certainty that that action does not kill it," he adds.

"The Church cannot be inconsistent in her teaching," he continues. "It is about the defense of the right to life. This is why, with the same energy with which she intervened in favor of the victims of violation of human rights, the Church pointed out some years ago that the time had come to abolish the death penalty, regarding it as unnecessary and inhuman. In the same way, she points out today the need to defend the right to life of all human beings from its very beginning."

In the "shattering case of rape, ... the immense pain of the one who has suffered it is comprehensible," the cardinal acknowledged. But this cannot justify the elimination "of a new and innocent life that wants to be born."

The cardinal believes that a country such as Chile, "which is aware of its history and has been committed to healing the wounds caused by very serious violations of human rights," needs to create "an environment that is propitious to life, in which institutions, communities, laws, customs, and families favor all that accepts, respects, encourages and support life; and all that is an expression of solidarity with it."