Waving signs advocating “compassionate care,” about 15 students gathered in front of St. Raphael’s Hospital in silent protest Friday to call on Catholic hospitals across the state to provide better care for rape victims.
Standing on Chapel Street in freezing temperatures, the students protested the refusal of Catholic hospitals such as St. Raphael’s to offer emergency contraception — commonly known as Plan B or the morning-after pill — to rape victims in the emergency room. Although hospitals can currently decline to offer emergency contraception on religious grounds, the state legislature is considering a bill filed last month that would require all licensed emergency medical facilities in the state to offer emergency contraception to victims of sexual assault. A similar bill failed in the state legislature last year.
The protestors, drawn from the School of Medicine and School of Nursing as well as Yale College, waved signs at passing cars and handed out lists of state legislators to passersby. Protest organizer Rachel Criswell ’07 said group wanted to get people to call or write the legislators to push the bill through committee as soon as possible. The protest was aimed at garnering support for the emergency contraception bill rather than targeting St. Raphael’s specifically, she said.
“We want our legislators to know that there’s a lot of support out here,” Criswell said. “We’re not targeting the staff here because it’s not just about St. Raphael’s.”
The Catholic Church objects to emergency contraception on the grounds that it is a violation of Church teachings on abortion, as the pill could prevent a fertilized egg from becoming implanted in the womb.
Maureen Lloyd ’08, a former member of Choose Life at Yale, said as long as St. Raphael’s is not in violation of state law, the hospital should adhere to its moral beliefs.
“When it comes to state funding and whether it should be a bill, it’s very difficult to say what should be done,” she said. “If the law is passed, then they should absolutely obey. But right now, if they believe the pill is abortion, then I believe they have the right to deny the pill since it goes against their beliefs.”
Many of the undergraduate protestors present were members of Reproductive Rights Action League at Yale. RALY member Becca Levi ’07 said the demonstrators’ approach was to raise awareness and remind people of the issue, rather than necessarily to lambaste the hospitals in question.
“[The protest] is more symbolic,” she said. “We want to galvanize support from students, get them to care about the bill and contact their legislators.”
But some student protestors acknowledged that the event would do little to cause legislative change. One School of Nursing student, who wished to remain anonymous, said the number of passersby targeted by a rally would not push a bill that had already failed last year through the state legislature.
The student said she was protesting to demonstrate the importance of “compassionate care” in general.
“Whether or not we effect change on the bill, it’s important to be involved because women deserve this care,” the student said. “Emergency contraception is a vital part of the mental and physical health of the victim, and it’s absurd that women would have to go elsewhere to get it.”
Plan B was approved for over-the-counter sale for women 18 and older at pharmacies in August.