by Steven Ertelt
September 25, 2006
Santiago, Chile (LifeNews.com) — The Santiago Appeals Court voted unanimously to overturn its previous decision that temporarily stopped a plan in the South American nation to distribute morning after pills to teenagers without parental knowledge or consent. The same court is expected to consider the plan a third time in the coming weeks.
The court previously ruled 2-1 to prohibit the morning after pill plan from moving ahead after getting two appeals.
One came from La Florida Mayor Pablo Zalaquett, who didn’t want his local clinics distributing the drug and the other from parents who said the decision undermined their authority to teach their children proper values.
The reversal came as two of the court’s conservative judges rotated off the bench and were replaced by two others who backed the Plan B pill.
The nation’s Health Ministry instituted the plan earlier this month and the latest ruling did not address all of the arguments against it. The court is expected to vote again on whether the morning after pill causes an abortion, which would violate the pro-life nation’s constitutional right to life.
The Santiago Times newspaper reports that pro-life groups, the Catholic Church and pro-life political parties like the RN and UDI are preparing legal papers for the next step of the legal battle.
Soledad Alvear, the president of the Christian Democratic Party, which forms part of the ruling coalition of parties, said the court needs to respect parents.
"When we’re talking about girls between the ages of 14 and 18, parental consent is important," Alvear said.
The Chile government plans to move ahead with its plan, in the meantime, and Health Minister María Soledad Barría announced hours after the ruling that local health clinics would get state instructions on how to distribute the morning after pill.
After the government announced the morning after pill program, mayors in several cities refused to abide by it in health clinics in their jurisdictions and they took the government to court. Whether they will go along with the plan now remains to be seen.
Socialist President Michelle Bachelet backed the morning after pill program and defended the government from criticism from the Catholic Church. Bachelet defended the decision as a way to reduce the number of illegal abortions in Chile, which prohibits abortions.
"My task, my obligation and my duty is to guarantee that all Chileans have real options in this area," she said.
Prior to the new program, the morning after pill was only available to women who were victims of rape and then only in pharmacies and not local clinics. The new program followed a decision by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to sell Plan B over the counter.
Some 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.
However, research studies in various nations show the morning after pill does not lower pregnancy rates and abortions in Scotland, where the drug was made available over the counter, increased after that decision there.