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Sex, Birth Control And Religion Are A Complicated Mix November 3, 2007

Posted by Mrs Weird Scientist in Drugs, Human Body, Psychology and Behavior, Science and Politics, Tough Stuff.
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Last week, the Pope spoke during an international conference in the Vatican City, where he stated that pharmacists should have the right not to sell medications that they personally believe could block pregnancy or trigger an abortion. The response? Some politicians and pharmacists were outraged at the Pope’s comments. You might be wondering what medications the Pope was talking about? Well, one medication that would be affected is the morning-after pill.

Morning After Pill

Morning-After Pill

You’ve maybe heard about this pill already – either from the Internet, friends, your parents or sexual education classes at school. It can best be summarized as a pill that aims to stop you from becoming pregnant if contraception wasn’t used or if it failed. Actually, the term ‘morning-after’ isn’t totally accurate because the pill can be taken up to 72 hours after sex, although the sooner you take it, the better it works. There are also several myths around the morning-after pill – one of which is that it causes an abortion. If you are already pregnant, the pill won’t cause an abortion. It works prior to pregnancy occurring by preventing your ovaries from releasing an egg and it also works by changing the lining of the womb, which means a fertilized egg can’t be embedded.

When Religion Joins In

Teen Girls The Pope’s comments caused a lot of controversy, in part, because they were taken as an attempt to cut off access to important health services. Livia Turco – the Health Minister – explained how the Pope had the right to encourage young people to be sexually responsible, but that he couldn’t tell professionals such as pharmacists what they could or could not do. By law, a pharmacist must provide a medication that has been prescribed by a doctor.

The Church’s Stance

The Church, however, feels that birth control and abortion are morally wrong and that nothing should stop the occurrence of life, which begins at conception and ends when natural death occurs. What about working professionals who are Catholic? Pharmacists who are practicing Catholics sometimes have asked a colleague to provide the medication. Other times, they find they have to put aside their personal beliefs when they dispense the morning-after pill.

The main controversy with the Pope’s recent comments isn’t even so much that he has his opinion, but more so that he is making statements to health professionals about how to conduct themselves at work. Still, some politicians support the Pope’s right to speak his mind whereas others believe that the Pope is meddling in politics and healthcare – areas he shouldn’t be meddling in at all!

Elsewhere In The World

In places like the United Kingdom, Canada and the United States, the morning-after pill is available without a prescription. There are, however, parameters around the availability – such as a person being over 18 in the United States. On top of all that, there is still a lot of controversy around the morning-after pill in countries that allow it to be obtained over the counter. Even though it is currently available without a prescription, that doesn’t mean the law will never change to revert it back to prescription status. The Pope’s influence is significant in terms of the public perception towards contraception as well as how politicians view access to this important form of emergency contraception. This means that his influence isn’t limited just to the Vatican City, but it also spreads to other corners of the world and could, in part, shape laws around the morning-after pill’s availability in your country. What do you think? Is the Pope meddling and should he keep quiet, or do you think he has the right to share his message with the world?

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