Chile Distributes Morning After Pill for Free, Catholic Church Opposed

National   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Sep 6, 2006   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

Chile Distributes Morning After Pill for Free, Catholic Church Opposed Email this article
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by Steven Ertelt Editor
September 6
, 2006

Santiago, Chile ( — The Catholic Church in Chile is criticizing a new governmental move to give away morning after pills at no cost to any women over the age of 14. The government of the South American nation announced the program over the weekend and it follows a decision by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to sell Plan B over the counter.

The move allows teenagers to get the morning after pill prescription from a physician without telling her parents and there will be no charge to obtain the drug. It will be free from the nation’s public health care system.

Health Minister María Soledad Barría made the announcement Saturday that the Plan B drug will be available at health clinics

The decision has produced a firestorm of controversy and strong condemnation from the Catholic Church, which opposes the morning after pill, in part, because it may act as an abortion drug in limited circumstances.

Several city mayors joined the church in opposing the decision and they said they would refuse to comply with it, according to a Santiago Times news report. They indicated they may take the decision to court or refuse to stock local clinics with the drugs.

“We are considering presenting a case to the Constitutional Tribunal that the administrative measure violates one of the fundamental rights of our Constitution: the right to teach our own children (how to behave) until they are mature enough to make important decisions," La Barnechea Mayor Marta Ehlers said, according to the Santiago Times.

Sen. Soledad Alvear, president of the Christian Democrat Party, which issued a statement opposing the decision, called it “the easy way out" and said it "promotes irresponsible sex at an early age and expands the pandemics that our public health system is trying to fight, like AIDS.”

Other politicians may wage a battle on the grounds that it violates the nation’s constitutional right to life.

The morning after pill does not protect against any sexually transmitted diseases.

The Times said President Michelle Bachelet defended the decision as a way to reduce the number of illegal abortions in Chile, which prohibits abortions.

“The obligation of the state is to provide alternatives, and the obligation of families, of each one of us, is to communicate with our children, explain things to them, and to teach them," Bachelet said. "No one wants abortion.”

Barria said that 14 percent of teenagers in Chile become pregnant by the age of 14 and 40,000 babies are born every year to teenage moms. Still, the teen birth rate has dropped from 16 percent in 2000 to 14 percent in 2004.

The Chile government hopes to get the rate to lower to nine percent by giving away the morning after pills.