Vatican acts overBosnian rapes: Birth control ban eased for women at risk

THE VATICAN has responded to mass rapes in Bosnia by reviving a decision that women in danger of rape may use contraceptives, even though its ban on contraception in normal circumstances remains.

The ban on abortion remains absolute, although the Roman Catholic bishops of England and Wales have decided that the so-called morning-after pill may also be used by rape victims in certain circumstances.

An article in the Jesuit magazine Civillta Catolica, which is approved before publication by the Vatican, argues that contraception is a legitimate form of self-defence for a rape victim. The author, Fr Giacomo Perico, says that rape is an act of violence, to which the rules applying to an act within marriage cannot apply.

'In this particular situation, it is legitimate to use contraception to avoid a possible pregnancy. It is not then a refusal of a gift of love, but a form of legitimate self-defence.'

The ban on artificial contraception within marriage restated by Pope Paul VI 25 years ago in the encyclical Humanae Vitae has been widely ignored in the West.

The article in Civillta Catolica makes it plain that nuns in the Belgian Congo had been allowed to use contraceptives in the early Sixties when they were in danger of rape. The author argues that such concessions cannot be extended solely to nuns.

Luke Gormalley, the director of a Roman Catholic research centre in medical ethics in London, says that the Vatican's teaching is perfectly consistent. 'The teaching about the wrongness of contraceptive intercourse is about a chosen sexual activity. It is not a mechanistic prohibition of certain substances.

'But when you're talking about rape, you're not talking about chosen sexual activity at all. If she takes contraceptives, the woman is then defending herself against an extension of male violation.'

However, opponents of Humanae Vitae have seized on this as a crucial weakening in the Vatican's general prohibition of birth control. If a woman is allowed to use contraception to protect herself from the psychological harm of bearing a rapist's child, as Civillta Catolica argues, then why should she not be allowed to use it to prevent other damage?

Mr Gormalley said that if a woman believes that she may ovulate after a rape, then she can take a 'morning after' pill to inhibit ovulation but not as a form of very early abortion.

Register for free to continue reading

Registration is a free and easy way to support our truly independent journalism

By registering, you will also enjoy limited access to Premium articles, exclusive newsletters, commenting, and virtual events with our leading journalists

Please enter a valid email
Please enter a valid email
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Please enter your first name
Special characters aren’t allowed
Please enter a name between 1 and 40 characters
Please enter your last name
Special characters aren’t allowed
Please enter a name between 1 and 40 characters
You must be over 18 years old to register
You must be over 18 years old to register
Opt-out-policy
You can opt-out at any time by signing in to your account to manage your preferences. Each email has a link to unsubscribe.

By clicking ‘Create my account’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Already have an account? sign in

By clicking ‘Register’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Register for free to continue reading

Registration is a free and easy way to support our truly independent journalism

By registering, you will also enjoy limited access to Premium articles, exclusive newsletters, commenting, and virtual events with our leading journalists

Already have an account? sign in

By clicking ‘Register’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Join our new commenting forum

Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies

Comments

Thank you for registering

Please refresh the page or navigate to another page on the site to be automatically logged inPlease refresh your browser to be logged in