German Church to let rape victims get morning-after pill

The Roman Catholic Church in Germany is to permit certain types of morning-after pill for raped women, after two hospitals provoked an outcry for refusing to treat a rape victim.

The German Bishops’ Conference said Church-run hospitals would be able to administer pills that prevent pregnancy without inducing an abortion.

Archbishop Robert Zollitsch said a four-day meeting of bishops in the western town of Trier had “confirmed that women who have been victims of rape will get the proper human, medical, psychological, and pastoral care”.

“That can include medication with a ‘morning-after pill’ as long as this has a prophylactic and not an abortive effect,” a statement said. “Medical and pharmaceutical methods that induce the death of an embryo may still not be used.”

That means there is no change to the Catholic Church’s ban on the so-called abortion pill based on the drug mifepristone or RU-486, and marketed as Mifegyne or Mifeprex.

The Church remains opposed to abortion and artificial birth control, but in Germany it will now differentiate between pills that prevent sperm from fertilising an egg and pills that induce an abortion, in cases of rape.

The German Church, which has seen mass desertions over cases of sex abuse of children by priests, had been expec-ted to change its position on the pill after apologising about a recent incident involving two Cologne hospitals.

A 25-year-old woman was referred to the hospitals by her doctor for a gynaecological exam after she was drugged at a party and woke up on a park bench fearing she had been raped.

The hospitals refused to treat her because they could not prescribe the pill. She was eventually treated at a Protestant church-run hospital.

Cologne’s Cardinal Joachim Meisner has already apologised for the Church hospitals’ treatment of the woman. He said it “shames us deeply because it contradicts our Christian mission and our purpose”.

The critical German lay movement Wir sind Kirche (We are the Church) said bishops feared losing state subsidies for Church hospitals. The Catholic Church runs 25% of German hospitals.

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