Health Minister defends decision to resume distribution of morning after pill

Health Minister Óscar Ugarte defended the government’s decision to resume handing out emergency contraceptives  known as the “morning after pill” free of charge in health centers throughout the country in apparent defiance of Peru’s highest court.

A ruling by the Constitutional Tribunal last October prohibited the free distribution of the pills. The court based its ruling on the conclusion that it is unclear whether the pill is an abortion-causing drug. Abortion is illegal in Peru, except when a pregnancy endangers a woman’s health or her life.

Ugarte said the Health Ministry received studies from the World Health Organization that demonstrated the morning after pill is not abortive, as it stops pregnancy rather than causes an abortion.

“It has been proven by the World Health Organization, through numerous studies, that the pill is neither abortive nor harmful to (a woman’s) health, and they can begin taking it again,” state news agency Andina reported Ugarte as saying.

“Now the tribunal has no reason to oppose it because we are acting within the framework of what they had decided,” he said. “Perhaps there are those that oppose this for other reasons, but not from a scientific and technical point of view.”

The vice president of the Constitutional Tribunal, Carlos Mesia, told CPN Radio Ugarte’s decision was “a crime against the administration of justice.”

The Minister of Women and Social Development, Nidia Vílchez, said the tribunal’s ruling last October more than doubled the price of the pill in pharmacies, which primarily affected poor women who could not easily buy it.

“In Peru there are 14 million women, so, when the (Constitutional Tribunal) issued that resolution we thought that the doors were closing, especially for women with less resources.”

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