Abortifacient's Advances and Retreats in Latin America

Steven Mosher
By Joseph A. D'Agostino
Vice President for Communications
PRI Weekly Briefing
5 August 2005
Vol. 7 / No. 30
Reproduced with Permission

Officially anti-abortion Latin American governments continue to legalize, or even promote, the morning-after pill (MAP) in their nations while claiming that MAP does not cause abortion. But since MAP sometimes acts after conception by preventing implantation, the use of MAP can kill an unborn child. By redefining pregnancy to begin at implantation, these governments—and the organizations such as the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) and Population Services International (PSI) which are behind them - can claim that MAP does not cause abortion, and can therefore be distributed in countries where abortion is illegal or even unconstitutional. They deceive anti-abortion Latin Americans into believing that MAP is a form of contraception.

In fact, "emergency contraception," or EC, is the preferred term for MAP among the population control/family planning establishment. In Latin America's most influential country, Mexico, the government has announced its intention to distribute MAP in government clinics. "The government wants to distribute the morning-after pill at public health centers," says Carlos Polo, director of PRI's Latin American office in Lima, Peru. "Some pro-life organizations and some Catholic bishops are protesting. Cardinal Rivera of Mexico City made a protest."

Pro-lifers are deploying three arguments against MAP in Mexico, where abortion is outlawed by the constitution itself, said Polo. "First, it's proved that the morning-after pill is abortifacient," he said. "Second, there are other, more important needs in public health. Third, the marketing of the morning-after pill will lead to more sexual activity among young people." The Mexican supreme court may have to settle the controversy. (All of these problems are discussed in detail on the Spanish-language PRI-supported website, tercerefecto.com, which has become a key resource for pro-lifers throughout Latin America.)

International organizations that receive U.S. taxpayer money such as PSI promote the falsehood that MAP (or EC for "emergency contraception" in their parlance) does not cause abortion. "EC is not abortion and is not an abortion pill, nor is it an effective contraceptive for on-going use," states PSI flatly. "Put simply, if a woman is already pregnant when she takes EC, the pregnancy will not be disrupted. Like other contraceptives, EC offers another way to prevent unwanted pregnancies, and thereby reduce demand for abortion. However, because it is not as reliable as regular contraceptive methods (efficacy rates of only 75%. . .), it is not recommended for use as a regular method."

PSI is engaging in propaganda campaigns, called "social marketing campaigns," to deceive Americans and others into accepting MAP as merely another form of contraception. "Worldwide there is a lack of awareness among both service providers and consumers of pregnancy prevention options available to women once unprotected intercourse has occurred," PSI says. "PSI's objective in social marketing EC is to decrease the incidence of unintended pregnancies and abortions by making EC an option available to women. . . ." PSI is socially marketing MAP in Venezuela and plans to initiate programs in Paraguay and Argentina.

PSI even created a Peruvian organization, APPRENDE, just to distribute MAP in Peru, but had to give up on it when Peruvian Congresswoman Judith De La Matta exposed the plan. The UNFPA has just picked up the slack, donating large a large quantity of MAPs to the Peruvian health system. "Peru will have to pay for more pills in the future," said Polo. "They haven't begun to distribute them yet." Peru's constitution outlaws abortion.

Pro-lifers have scored victories in Chile and Argentina, where the sale of major brands of MAP have been prevented but some others are still allowed. Chile has stopped distributing MAP in public clinics, a decision that prompted the Planned Parenthood Federation of America to complain in a headline on April 20, 2005, "Emergency Contraception in Chile Snatched from the Jaws of Victory." In Uruguay, MAP is accepted, both in drugstores and in public clinics.

In Colombia and Honduras, MAP is sold in drugstores, but Honduran pro-lifers succeeded in getting that country's General Prosecutor to declare that MAP is an abortifacient and thus unconstitutional. ASHONPLAFA, affiliated with the International Planned Parenthood Federation (IPPF), is defending MAP, and the courts will decide.

In Ecuador, pro-life activists "protested against the granting of permission for MAP to be sold," said Polo. "They managed to get the sale of the main brand of the morning-after pill prohibited, but a small Argentinean company is still selling MAP there. Now they are trying to outlaw it." Tremendous political upheaval in that country has delayed a legal decision, said Polo. "Ecuador has the most important fight over MAP, because pro-lifers managed to combat the problems from the beginning. The MAP defenders made a mistake. They announced their intentions two months beforehand, giving us time to prepare.

"The main goal of our opposition is to have MAP accepted by our societies," he said. "The main way to do it is have the government distribute it for free to poor people in public health centers." The emphasis on MAP comes at the expense of true health care. "Peru is really poor," Polo said. "We don't have money to buy enough antibiotics. To have MAP is something crazy."

Keeping MAP at bay is especially difficult because it is made of a higher dose of the everyday contraceptive pill; no other drugs are required. Latin American pro-lifers, led by PRI, continue their work to eradicate this human pesticide from their region. We should pray for their success.

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