Ask a Priest

Morning after pill

Jun 24, 2015


I am a pharmacist and wondering where the Church stands on the issue of supply of the morning after pill. The morning after pill is different from the contraceptive pill as it really can only be used for the intent to destroy a life (in its earliest of stages through the prevention of implantation). It is a form of abortion. The church states that those involved in an abortion, including the doctors providing it, subject themselves to excommunication from the church. How does this correlate to the role of an employed pharmacist who is asked to supply this drug?

Ideally I realise it would not be supplied. However, does it constitute excommunication, or even a mortal sin?



Asked at 12:50 pm on June 24th 2015

Thank you for your question. I’m not a moral theologian and so I’ll have to wait till I have a chance to have a chat with one to get an authoritative answer.

But let’s start with what you say in your question: given that the morning after pill can be abortifacient, as an ordinary priest and Catholic, it seems to me that it would be wrong as a pharmacist to supply this drug. Unfortunately this kind of problem is going to become worse not better, unless there are legal protections for conscientious objection for pharmacists and their assistants. In the US, I’ve heard there’s a group with a name like the Beckett Foundation that takes on cases like this. And if you’re not in the US, it might be a good idea to see if you can find a Catholic lawyer who could check out the legal protections for a pharmacist in this situation.

I have a friend in what was before 1990 or so, Czechoslovakia, who’s a paediatrician. In 1986, still under the Communist government there, he was appointed as head of a big hospital in Bratislava, now the capital of Slovakia. Since abortions were carried out in that hospital, he felt that the government would use the fact that he was known to be a practicing Catholic to ‘excuse’ in some way the abortions there. He asked the local bishop (at that time the bishop, as far as I remember, was only allowed to work as a window-cleaner) and the bishop agreed that he shouldn’t take the job, so he told the government, whose answer was to fire him not only out of his job but out of his accommodation where he lived with his wife and 3 very young children. God intervened, though, as his former hospital in Prague begged him to come back, and friends helped him find a flat to live in in Prague. What I’m saying is that there may be a real persecution going on here, which is why legal protection should be looked into I’d rather approach the issue that way than rush in and talk about mortal sin and excommunication!

Hope that’s a help, keeping you and your very difficult vocation in my prayers, Fr Brendan Purcell

Replied at 02:55 am on June 30th 2015