May 27, 2012

Does Donald W. Wuerl, the Catholic archbishop of Washington, read what he writes [“Protecting our Catholic conscience,” Washington Forum, May 25]? “People of all faiths or no faith should cherish the right to follow one’s conscience,” he writes. “We do not want to tell the government what it must do.”

Presumably the cardinal has not changed his positions on abortion rights and same-sex marriage — positions that would impose his conscience on the rest of us and do try to “tell the government what it must do.” If people should have the right to “follow one’s conscience,” then certainly that should apply to those whose conscience is comfortable with ending a pregnancy or entering into a legal marriage with someone of the same sex.

“We are not trying to force anything on anyone,” the cardinal says. Actually, he is.

Leonard Steinhorn, Bethesda

Last week both Catholic Archbishop Donald W. Wuerl and columnist Michael Gerson [“Obama’s crumbling Catholic vote,” op-ed, May 22] repeated the false claim that the requirement for insurance coverage of contraception under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act mandates coverage of “abortion-inducing drugs.”

Presumably, they are referring to emergency contraception (Plan B and Ella). It is time for media and editors to stop treating this as a “he said, she said” situation.

Such a statement by those who object to all contraception ignores the science of how emergency contraception works. This could be understandable since the label on emergency contraceptive pills is confusing to begin with and hasn’t changed since 1999. But recent studies have found strong evidence that emergency contraception works by delaying ovulation. It may prevent fertilization, but it does not block implantation of a fertilized egg — and this is true for even the newest emergency contraceptive product, Ella.

Even if studies show that some contraceptive methods may have a post-fertilization effect, so long as it works before pregnancy is established — before a fertilized egg is implanted — it is a contraceptive. For a pregnant woman seeking an abortion, there is an option approved by the Food and Drug Administration: the abortion pill, also called RU-486. But all of the contraceptive products covered under this health reform policy will not end a pregnancy. Repeating false information that what will be covered — contraception — are abortion drugs is factually incorrect and misleading. Accurate information is necessary if we must debate women’s access to contraception.

Susan F. Wood, Washington

The writer was assistant commissioner for women’s health at the Food and Drug Administration from 2000 to 2005.

In her May 25 letter, Mary von Euler argued for the “rights of employees to equal treatment under the health-care law” and against the Catholic entities’ lawsuits challenging this mandate.

The question is whether the “rights” described in a relatively new law passed by a narrow majority of the 111th Congress trump the Bill of Rights. That’s a constitutional question and the Catholic Church’s lawsuit seems to be the way to get it answered.

Dick Spagna, Falls Church

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