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The Honolulu Advertiser

Posted on: Wednesday, June 25, 2003

Contraception process is highly time-sensitive

Gov. Linda Lingle has vetoed a bill requiring all hospitals to provide emergency contraceptives to sexual assault victims because the Legislature would not provide an exemption for St. Francis Medical Center, which has concerns about contraception and abortion on religious grounds.

Why all the fuss? one might ask.

Sexual assault victims are unlikely to show up at St. Francis Medical Center in the first place because the facility doesn't have obstetrics and gynecology services. And according to hospital officials, the rare ones who do get to St. Francis emergency room are given prompt medical treatment, if needed, and are then referred to the specialists at the Sex Abuse Treatment Center at Kapiolani Medical Center for Women and Children.

But that doesn't absolve St. Francis or any church-run medical service from informing sexual assault victims about all their options, including the "morning after pill," in a nonjudgmental way.

Besides, emergency contraception is not a sin as far as the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops is concerned. The U.S. Catholic Church has no objection to sexual assault victims protecting themselves in this manner, as long as they are — in the church's view — avoiding a pregnancy rather than terminating it.

Let us be clear, however, that we believe any victim of rape, incest or unwanted sex should have prompt access to the "morning-after pill" to prevent an unwanted pregnancy.

If that is the case now, through the Kapiolani facility and other hospitals that offer the morning-after pill, then there should be no reason not to respect St. Francis' religious sensibilities.