Thursday's statement by the bishops stressed that rape victims "can of course receive human, medical, psychological and pastoral help in Catholic hospitals.
"That can include prescription of the 'morning-after pill,' insofar as it has a preventive and not an abortive effect. Medical and pharmaceutical methods which result in the death of an embryo still may not be used."
It said the bishops "trust that practical treatment in Catholic-run facilities will take place on the basis of these moral and theological guidelines."
The statement did not specify any timeframe within which the morning-after pill can be prescribed. That pill contains a higher dose of the female progestin hormone than is in regular birth control pills. Taking it within 72 hours of unprotected intercourse can cut the chances of pregnancy by up to 89 percent. But it works best within the first 24 hours.
If a woman already is pregnant, the pill has no effect. It prevents ovulation or fertilization of an egg.
Meisner's diocese has said that approval for emergency contraception does not extend to RU-486, which terminates pregnancy by causing the embryo to detach from the uterine wall.
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