CT Senate votes to provide rape victims with emergency contraception

Rebuffing concerns from the Catholic Church, the state Senate voted Wednesday to require all Connecticut hospitals to provide rape victims with emergency contraception.

The bill passed 32-3 and now moves to the House of Representatives. The Catholic Church opposed it last year and instructed its Connecticut hospitals — including the Hospital of St. Raphael in New Haven — not to provide contraception to rape victims who were ovulating or had an egg fertilized, as the Church doctrine holds that life begins at conception.

The drug in question, known as Plan B or the morning after pill, can terminate a pregnancy if taken within 72 hours of sex. In weeks of meetings, the Church had hoped to broker a compromise with legislators regarding the contraceptive, but nothing materialized beyond a few small amendments made to the bill about two weeks ago.

“The bottom line is, we cannot wait any longer,” said Sen. Jonathan Harris, Democrat of West Hartford and chairman of the Human Services Committee.

In February, about 15 Yale students staged a silent protest in front of St. Raphael’s, criticizing Connecticut’s Catholic hospitals for opting not to provide Plan B to rape victims in their emergency rooms. The protest was intended to spur students and New Haven residents into urging the General Assembly to pass the emergency contraceptive bill, protest organizer Rachel Criswell ’07 said.

“We want our legislators to know that there’s a lot of support out here,” she said.

Plan B has also inspired some controversy at Yale, where University Health Services has charged $28 for the drug since it was approved for over-the-counter sale by the FDA in August. Previously, it was provided for free under the Yale Health Plan, and students have raised concerns that the new cost might make it more difficult for female students to obtain the contraceptive.

Similar laws have been passed in New York and New Jersey, though a version of the bill failed to pass in the General Assembly last year.

—The Associated Press contributed reporting.

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