by Steven Ertelt
January 12, 2007
Santiago, Chile (LifeNews.com) — A Chilean court on Friday issued a ruling putting a stop to a government plan to distribute the morning after pill to minor teenagers without their parent’s knowledge or consent. The nation’s Health Ministry instituted the plan in September and it produced strong dissent from the Catholic church and local officials.
Chile’s Constitutional Court ruled 6-4 that the program had to be halted because it was implemented by an administration ruling rather than by a presidential decree or a law approved by the legislature.
The government of President Michelle Bachelet, who supports the program, said she would issue a decree in response to the court’s decision.
Bachelet won’t send a bill to the Chile Congress for approval because there program doesn’t have enough support there. In fact, the court ruling came in response to a lawsuit filed by 32 members of Congress from pro-life parties who strongly opposed the plan.
Jorge Reyes, a lawyer representing the lawmakers, told AP that "we will go back to the court to object to other aspects of the program that we consider unconstitutional" if the president issues a decree.
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.
Bachelet has defended the program as a way to reduce the number of illegal abortions in Chile, which prohibits abortions.
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.
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.