Victim Advocate Urged To Quit
Sullivan Criticizes Stand On Plan B
By Hilary Waldman, Hartford Courant, March 8, 2006
Lt. Gov. Kevin B. Sullivan called on the state victim advocate to resign Tuesday, saying James Papillo's opposition to a bill that would require hospitals to provide emergency contraception to rape victims violates his oath of office.
"Imagine the state victim advocate testifying against victim's rights," Sullivan said at a press conference in his Capitol office.
On Monday, Papillo, also an ordained deacon in the Roman Catholic Church, appeared at a legislative public hearing and opposed the proposed law that would require the state's four Catholic hospitals to offer the so-called Plan B emergency pill to all rape victims.
The Catholic Church opposes the bill, saying that in some cases taking the pill can be equivalent to abortion - a violation of Catholic doctrine.
Papillo said he will not resign.
The West Hartford resident was appointed to the $98,000-a-year victim advocate's post in 1999 by Republican Gov. John G. Rowland. He was reappointed in 2003 and will complete his second, four-year term next year.
"I think it's a political issue in a political year," said Papillo, a lawyer who holds a doctorate in psychology. He said the victim advocate's office should be independent and not a "puppet" of any authority, not the state legal system or the legislature.
In his testimony, Papillo said his opposition to the Plan B requirement had nothing to do with religion. Instead, he said the Plan B issue simply obscured the real needs of victims, including the need for more money for counseling and more court-appointed victim advocates.
But in an interview Tuesday he said the state must balance the religious rights of the hospitals against the needs of rape victims.
"Women who want the pill should get it," Papillo said. "So we're going to have to do it in a way that's sensitive to the other issues."
Gov. M. Jodi Rell said Tueday that she directed her legal counsel to express her displeasure to Papillo "over the inappropriate nature of his remarks."
"I believe he now understands that he went far beyond the bounds of victim advocacy," Rell said. "Mr. Papillo knows he must not cross the line again between his personal beliefs and the interests of those for whom he advocates."
The state's four Catholic hospitals - St. Francis, St. Mary's, St. Vincent's and the Hospital of St. Raphael - offer the super-strong birth control pill to rape victims if tests show they are not pregnant or ovulating. If they do not meet the Catholic criteria, patients might be given a written prescription or transferred to another hospital willing to dispense the pills. Plan B can prevent pregnancy if taken within 72 hours after sexual intercourse, but is more effective if taken within 12-24 hours.
Sullivan expressed outrage at Papillo's position.
"This is an individual with a very personal agenda, and he's taken a position that is adverse to victims," said Sullivan, a Democrat. He was joined by state Rep. Denise Merrill, D-Mansfield, who also supports the Plan B requirement.
In his testimony Monday Papillo told the legislature's public health committee that his office has never received a complaint from a rape victim who was denied access to emergency contraception.
On Tuesday, Sullivan likened that assertion to the argument of racists during the civil rights struggles of the 1960s. "I think back to African Americans [when those opposed to integration] said, `Well, they didn't want to eat at [white] lunch counters anyway,"' Sullivan said.
Senate Minority Leader Louis C. DeLuca, R-Woodbury, strongly defended Papillo.
"For him to get attacked personally by Lt. Gov. Sullivan and Rep. Merrill, I think is absurd and atrocious that they attack a man personally for presenting facts to a committee."
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