Seems the U.S. Department of Justice finally got around to issuing some medical guidelines for the treatment of rape victims that is missing information on emergency contraception, one of the standard precautions used to prevent pregnancy after a sexual assault, even though that information was included in an early draft.
Gail Burns-Smith, one of several dozen experts who vetted the protocol during its three-year development by Justice’s Office on Violence Against Women, said emergency contraception was included in an early draft, and she does not know of anyone who opposed it.
“But in the climate in which we are currently operating, politically it’s a hot potato,” said Burns-Smith, retired director of Connecticut Sexual Assault Crisis Services.
For two weeks, Justice officials were unavailable to talk about the new 141-page protocol, published in September. But in an e-mail, department spokesman Eric Holland reiterated points made in the document.
“The goals of the protocol are to ensure that all victims, regardless of differences in background or location of service, receive the same high quality medical and forensic exam, while being treated with respect and compassion, and to improve prosecution of sexual assault cases through the appropriate collection of evidence,” he wrote. “The protocol is not intended to supersede the many state, local, and tribal protocols that are currently in practice.”
Lynn Schollet, a lawyer with the Illinois Coalition Against Sexual Assault, said without emergency contraception, the trauma of rape could be compounded by an unplanned pregnancy.
“It is very unfortunate to set forth a model national standard that is not giving women the best care available,” Schollet said.
In the half-page on pregnancy “risk evaluation and care,” the protocol says to take victims’ pregnancy fears “seriously,” give a pregnancy test, and “discuss treatment options, including reproductive health services.”
Apparently there are some folks out there who feel that if a woman who is raped is unfortunate enough to become pregnant from it then she should be forced to go through with the pregnancy:
Emergency contraception is controversial because, like stem cells and cloning, it has become tangled in the politics of abortion. The method usually works by keeping an egg from being released or being fertilized. However, it may sometimes prevent a fertilized egg from implanting in the uterus – equated with murder by some conservative groups and the Catholic Church (which opposes all forms of contraception).
“I think it’s very smart not to put that in the guidelines,” said Dr. George Isajiw, a board member of Physicians for Life, a Philadelphia anti-abortion group.
By giving emergency contraception, he said, “you’re giving a dangerous drug that’s not doing any good, or else you’re causing an abortion. As a moral principle, a woman has the right to defend herself against an aggressor. But she doesn’t have the right to kill the baby.”
So here we are again with another official set of government guidelines with the most important bit censored by our friends on the Religious Right.