Women's Link Worldwide • Honduras, November 26 de 2009

Emergency Contraception, a regional debate. The prohibition of emergency contraception in Honduras is inadmissible

Various organizations working on human rights and sexual and reproductive rights in the Americas deplore the fact that Roberto Micheletti's government has prohibited the use and commercialization of emergency contraception in Honduras.
Despite the numerous appeals by the World Health Organization(WHO)to ensure that health services for rape victims include the provision of emergency contraception, legislators and governments of Latin America continue to dismiss women's sexual and reproductive rights.

With the issuance of Ministerial Decree 2744 of 2009, signed by de facto Honduran president Roberto Micheletti, published in the Official Gazette last October 24th, the use and commercialization of emergency contraception was prohibited.

The decree, that has full legal force, prohibits the promotion, use, sales, purchases and any policy or program related to emergency contraception, as well as the free or paid distribution and commercialization of emergency contraception medicines. Any one acting against the dispositions in the decree will be criminally liable for the felony of abortion as established in the Criminal Code.

The Decree was issued despite the fact that on May 15, 2009, democratically elected President José Manuel Zelaya vetoed Decree 54 of 2009, which had been approved by Congress and prohibited emergency contraceptive because they considered it to be abortive. At the time, Zelaya stated that prohibiting emergency contraception was unconstitutional since the WHO had determined that, based on scientific evidence, emergency contraception is not an abortive method. President Zelaya returned Decree 54 to Congress with substantial objections, determining that a new legislative discussion could not take place before Hondura’s Supreme Court issued an opinion on the constitutionality of the issue. The Supreme Court has not completed this process, which is being disregarded by the current de facto government.

Social organizations in Honduras have filed a complaint before the Inter-American Commission of Human Rights, in which they state that they have registered more than 400 cases of abuses against women by police officers after the Coup d'État that took place last June 28th, which deposed President Manuel Zelaya.Only in 2009, femicide has increased by 46%.

Women’s Link Worldwide denounces that “Micheletti’s government’s decision is inadmissible because it violates all human rights treaties ratified by Honduras and drastically limits the offer of emergency contraceptives, a fundamental need for women who have suffered sexual violence. Restrictive laws regarding sexual and reproductive health and rights are one of the main barriers to overcome gender inequality and discrimination in the region." The attorneys at the organization pointed that the pill is included in the emergency care kit for women who have been raped proposed by the WHO.

A regional debate
Almost at the same time that the Decree was being issued in Honduras, Peru’s Constitutional Court prohibited the free distribution of emergency contraception in public health care facilities in the country, stating that the pill “could be abortive.” With this decision, Peru's Constitutional Court has taken away from the most vulnerable the possibility to access this important contraceptive at no cost.

In Costa Rica there is an ongoing debate about the commercial registry of emergency contraception. A Congressional bill is currently seeking to provide access to the pill to all women that request it. The bill is currently being discussed in the Legislative Assembly’s Social Affairs Commission.

In Chile, since 2007, the Constitutional Court declared the sales, commercialization and distribution of emergency contraception in public hospitals, unconstitutional, effectively denying access to emergency contraception to women in the most vulnerable situation, namely those without economic resources to purchase the pill at a pharmacy.

In Ecuador, Guayaquil’s Third Civil Court indefinitely suspended the health registry to commercialize and distribute "Postinor 2", the brand of the emergency contraception available in the country. The decision was ratified by the Constitutional Court in 2006.

Restricting the various commercial brands of emergency contraceptive available in Latin America violated women's fundamental rights by limiting their ability to choose whether they want to have a child and to access effective methods that prevent that women risk their lives by obtaining unsafe abortions. At the beginning of November of 2009, at the First Latin American Legal Congress on Reproductive Rights, that took place in Arequipa, Peru, representatives of the WHO reiterated to attorneys from the whole continent the non-abortive nature of emergency contraception and emphasized that 21% of maternal deaths in Latin America are due to unsafe abortions.

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