Legislators Ban Emergency Contraception in Honduras

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Legislators Ban Emergency Contraception in Honduras

Angela Castellanos

In April, the Parliament of Honduras approved in a bill prohibiting the promotion, commercialization, free distribution and use of EC pills.

America is divided. The
reason: The
emergency contraception pill (EC).

2008, the Constitutional Court of Chile banned the free
distribution of the emergency contraception pill (EC) in the public health
system. In Colombia,
the high court Consejo de Estado ratified the government health agency INVIMA’s
authorization of importation and distribution of emergency contraception pills.

year, Peruvian and Honduran legislators and judges continue to give opposing

March, the Superior Court of Justice of Lima
issued a sentence recognizing the right of all 
Peruvian women to have equal access to the EC, while rejecting a
judicial request calling to stop the free distribution of EC by the Ministry of
Health to poor women. Stopping its free distribution would be discriminatory,
since the EC pills are sold to women who can afford the cost.

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on April 2, the Parliament of Honduras approved in just one plenary session a
bill prohibiting the promotion, commercialization, free distribution and use of
EC pills. The bill also prohibits the dissemination of information about the
use of contraceptive pills like EC, and states that those who violate the bill
will be subject to the punishments established for the crime of abortion.

Penal Code establishes three to six years of prison for the agent (doctor,
midwife, etc.) when abortion is practiced with woman’s consent, six to eight
years of prison without her consent and without violence or intimidation and
eight to 10 years of prison when the agent uses violence and intimidation.
Moreover, women are punished with three to six years in prison to consent an

to Centro de Derechos de Mujeres
(CDM),"the bill was approved without debate, in just one session, taking
advantage of a circumstance where the national attention was focused in a
football game," and it was voted in a plenary "with the participation of just
50 legislators." 

bill was submitted to the Parliament by female legislatorsNelly Jeréz (from the
National Party) and Martha Lorena Alvarado (Liberal Party).

a protest statement,a Honduran NGO asks, "How is it possible that two
legislators, from their sectarian and fundamentalists visions, impose a legal
act which will have dramatic consequences for millions of women, ignoring their
sexual and reproductive rights, and their rights to be informed, to access
medicines and to get timely and appropriate health care?"

again, the motivation of the legislators is that the belief that emergency
contraception is an abortifacient, and therefore is against the national
legislation, which penalizes abortion.

pharmacies "are offering to our youth an abortive medicine, because it is made
to be used after sexual relations, so it is not a normal contraceptive but an
overdose of hormones, whose effects were analyzed by the Colegio Médico de
Honduras (Medical College of Honduras) and declared as an abortive pill,"
Alvaro said to a local daily.

World Health Organization (WHO) clearly explains that "Levonorgestrel emergency contraceptive pills (ECPs)
have been shown to prevent ovulation and they did not have any detectable
effect on the endometrium (uterine lining) or progesterone levels when given
after ovulation. ECPs are not effective once the process of implantation has
begun, and will not cause abortion."

EC pill has been used by women who cannot face a pregnancy at a particular time
in their lives. In such a way, EC avoids an 
undesirable pregnancy and even an unsafe abortion. The EC pill is also
recommended for women who have been raped as long as the EC is used up to 72 hours after sexual intercourse.

Just in 2007, 4,000 instances
of rape were reported to Honduran authorities. According to the National Survey
on Demography and Health, the prevalence of women being abused since 12 years
of age is close to 10percent.

The Consorcio Latinoamericano de Anticoncepción de
(CLAE) called the President of the Honduran Parliament and its legislators
to revise their decision regarding the EC pill upon the international
scientific evidence at the base of the WHO statement, which says the EC method
is not abortive.

However, so far the
Presidential veto would be the last thing to stop the bill.

The Red de Salud de las Mujeres Latinoamericanas
y del Caribe
and the Latin
American and Caribbean Committee for the Defense of Women’s Rights
, along
with the CLAE and the CDM, issued a protest declaration in which these
organizations underlined that the approved bill violates various international
conventions signed by Honduras such as the Convention for the Children’s Rights
and the American Convention on Human Rights,and it infringes on Honduran public
policies as well. 

Soon after the bill was approved,
the medicine’s price increased and it is being sold by a clandestine market,  according to local media.