Chile Government Responds to Pope By Pushing Morning After Pill

International   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Oct 30, 2007   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

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by Steven Ertelt Editor
October 30,

Santiago, Chile ( — The national government of Chile has responded to a request to respect human life by Pope Benedict XVI by pushing the morning after pill harder than before. The Catholic leader met with new President Michelle Bachelet earlier this month, but she has responded by doing the opposite of what he asked.

The Pope met with Bachelet 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.

Now, the Chilean government is warning pharmacies that they could face fines and other penalties for refusing to sell the morning after pill.

Some pharmacies have argued they can’t sell the pill even if they wanted because they can’t purchase large quantities from any local pharmaceutical company. But the Bachelet government has imported the Plan B drug and says they are now available to sell.

The move also comes on the heels of a Monday speech by Pope Benedict, who said that Catholic pharmacists have a right to opt out of dispensing drugs, such as the Plan B or abortion pill RU 486, that violates their moral and religious beliefs.

Deputy Health Minister Lidia Amarales told the BBC that the government is ready to close stores that don’t comply and one of the chains, Salcobrand, is challenging the government’s decision.

"We express conscientious objection to being forced to sell a product that can have that effect," a Salcobrand company statement quoted by the Associated Press said.

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.

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.