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Conscience Magazine

Restrictions on Emergency Contraception in Latin America Challenged at Inter-American Commission on Human Rights

February 19, 2014

Limitations on some Latin American women’s access to emergency contraception (EC) took center stage at the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights in October, reported Ecuador’s El Universo. Currently, Perú, Ecuador, Chile, Costa Rica and Honduras all have some restrictions on the sale or purchase of EC. For instance, in Chile, EC has not been available in the public health system since 2008, while in Honduras buying, using or selling EC is against the law, though this statute is not well-enforced.

Alejandra Cárdenas of the Center for Reproductive Rights advocated for increasing the availability of EC across the continent, which would require countries to “stop misconstruing so-called ‘personhood’ laws, which already place women’s lives and health at grave risk, to undermine women’s ability to prevent unintended pregnancies.”

In Ecuador, the Catholic hierarchy has long waged a campaign against EC. When the Constitutional Court restricted access to EC in 2006, the bishops were vocal in their rejection of the treatment because they claimed it was tantamount to abortion. More recently, in April 2013, two bishops, Luis Cabrera Herrera, Archbishop of Cuenca, and Antonio Arregui, Archbishop of Guayaquil, told Catholic News Agency’s ACI Prensa that EC should be totally banned because it was, allegedly, an abortifacient. The antichoice group Red Vida y Familia released an open letter to Carina Vance, minister of public health, that month. Their request that she issue a blanket ban on EC or resign was followed by Vance’s -reiteration of her support for emergency contraception in the -Ecuadorian newspaper, El Comercio.