by Steven Ertelt
October 18, 2007
Vatican City (LifeNews.com) — Pope Benedict XVI met with Michelle Bachelet, the new president of Chile, for 40 minutes on Thursday and pressed home to her the importance of keeping the pro-life perspective there. Chile has clashed with pro-life advocates and the Catholic Church by promoting the morning after pill.
Bachelet is the first woman president of the South American nation and she has come under fire for promoting the Plan B drug to girls under the age of 14 without parental consent.
Abortion is illegal in Chile, as it is elsewhere in the region, but some abortion advocates see promoting the morning after pill as a first step to loosening the strong pro-life views of people there.
In January, a Chilean court put the brakes on the government’s morning after pill plan. The nation’s Health Ministry instituted the plan in September 2006.
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.
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.