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Costa Rican legislators push for legalization of morning-after pill

October 24, 2008

The Costa Rican health minister and a group of congressional members have proposed a legislative initiative before the Legislative Assembly to legalize the use of the emergency contraceptive known as the morning-after pill.

Currently, there are no legal statutes that regulate the selling of the pill in Costa Rica, and the authorities´ objective is to distribute it free of charge via the Social Security System (the Caja).

In declarations published in the daily La Nación, Heath Minister María Luisa Avila explained that the pill is not a means of abortion, as the Catholic Church and other opposition groups claim.

“What the pill does is inhibit or delay the release of the ovule and prevents fertilization,” she said, adding that if the egg is already fertilized, the medication does not affect it, and as such, does not terminate a pregnancy.

Eight legislators from various parties backed the ministry´s position, but were met with strong opposition from other lawmakers.

Congresswoman Ana Elena Chacón, from the Social Christian Unity Party (PUSC), said that opposition to this method of contraception is due to a “double standard” and the “prejudices” of many people.

According to Chacón, the use of this method of contraception would enable a reduction in the rate of teen pregnancies, which currently account for 20 percent of births in Costa Rica.

On the other side, evangelical legislator Guyón Massey maintained that the pill is a means of abortion and that he will categorically oppose the measure to legalize it in Costa Rica.

The bill is currently being debated in a legislative commission, but, according to Chacón, could be up for vote on the assembly´s floor by next year.

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