The House of Representatives overwhelmingly supported a bill that would give Catholic Hospitals the option of contracting with third-party to administer emergency contraception, known as Plan B, to rape victims.
After a three-hour debate and one amendment the House passed the bill 113 to 36. The bill passed the Senate last week 32 to 3.
Unlike the Senate debate, the House debate seemed to focus on when conception takes place and what scientific evidence exists to show Plan B prevents fertilization. The Catholic bishops in Connecticut seem to believe there isn’t enough evidence to prove the pill doesn’t assist in the abortion of a fetus. While the bill addressed this by including a pregnancy test the amendment proposed by Minority Leader Lawrence Cafero, R-Norwalk, included an ovulation test.
This where the debate gets technical. (If you’re a man you may want to skip these next few paragraphs.)
Cafero said a Catholic hospital should be able to administer the ovulation test. He said if it’s determined a woman is ovulating then the Catholic hospital can call in an independent provider to administer Plan B.
Rep. Deb Heinrich, D-Madison, (pictured above) who shared her personal story of rape earlier this year, said “ovulating does not equal pregnancy.” She said Plan B changes the consistency of the cervical mucus so the sperm does not meet the egg. She also offered up an opinion from an FDA doctor who said if a woman was pregnant, Plan B, would not terminate the pregnancy.
Cafero’s amendment was defeated 101 to 47 and was not supported by the Catholic Church.
During the first hour of the debate, Rep. Steve Fontana, D-North Haven, said as a Catholic he supported the legislation because Catholic doctrine allows for this type of compassionate care.
He said Catholics should and must embrace this legislation supported by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.
The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops provides ethical and religious directives to Catholic hospitals. Directive 36 states that: “A female who has been raped should be able to defend herself against a potential conception from the sexual assault,” however, the language allows for interpretation and discretion by local bishops and hospital officials.
At the end of the day the scientific evidence seemed to prevail. “I think common sense prevailed,” Heinrich said at a press conference following the three-hour debate.
The bill now goes to the governor for approval. Proponents of the bill are optimistic Gov. M. Jodi Rell will support the legislation.
Last week before the Senate passed the bill Rell said that having a third-party come into a Catholic hospital to administer Plan B to rape victims should not be a problem for the church. She said she believes in the compromise legislators tried to reach with the church before it pulled out of negotiations.
Check out Maura’s liveblog of the debate atMy Left Nutmeg.