Answers to Frequently Asked Questions About...
How to Get Emergency Contraception
Can I get emergency contraception at a Catholic hospital?
It can be difficult, if not impossible, to get emergency contraceptive pills (sometimes called “morning after pills” or “day after pills”) at a Catholic hospital in the United States. That’s because the medical care in these facilities is governed by the Ethical and Religious Directives for Catholic Health Care Services, guidelines developed by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops based on Church teachings that prohibit using artificial contraception. As a result, the Directives essentially ban Catholic hospitals from providing emergency contraception to a woman whose birth control failed or who didn’t use contraception during consensual sex.
If you have been raped, however, a Catholic hospital might be able to provide emergency contraceptive pills to help you prevent pregnancy. Directive 36 seems to allow providing emergency contraception to “a female who has been raped to defend herself against a potential conception from the sexual assault . . . if, after appropriate testing there is no indication she is pregnant.” Catholic hospitals interpret the Directives and decide if they can provide emergency contraceptive pills to a woman who has been raped. In one recent survey, roughly one-third of the Catholic hospitals in three states were not complying with state laws that require making emergency contraception available to women who have been raped. (You can get more information about Catholic hospitals and contraception from Catholics for Choice, which commissioned the survey.)
A recent report by the International Consortium for Emergency Contraception and Catholics for Choice describes that while many bishops oppose EC, polls show broad support among Catholics.