Thursday, February 1, 2007
Emergency Contraception for Teens: Free, or Off-Limits?
There's something disturbing about the fact that although low-income teenagers can apparently readily and cheaply obtain Cytotec, an ulcer drug, to induce an illegal abortion, the federal government wants to make it harder for them to get emergency contraception so they can safely prevent unwanted pregnancies from occurring in the first place. (Read about Amber Abreu, the teenager who was imprisoned in Massachusetts for taking Cytotec to induce an abortion.) When the FDA decided to grant over-the-counter status for the emergency contraceptive Plan B, it refused to allow girls under 18 to obtain the contraceptive without a prescription. Contrast that decision with Chile's policy on teens' access to emergency contraception.
The Chilean government on Tuesday announced that it will resume a program that provides no-cost emergency contraception to girls and women ages 14 and older at public hospitals, the Chicago Tribune reports (Chicago Tribune, 1/31). Chilean Health Minister Maria Soledad Barria in September 2006 announced the government's plan to distribute EC, which can prevent pregnancy if taken up to 72 hours after sexual intercourse and has been available since 2001 in Chilean pharmacies by prescription. It also has been available to teenagers who obtain parental consent, but some people said EC -- which costs about $20 in the country -- only has been accessible to the middle and upper classes. . . . Chile's Constitutional Court earlier this month voted 6-4 to halt the program, ruling that the approval process for the plan was unconstitutional because it was implemented by administrative decree, rather than by presidential decree or a law (Kaiser Daily Women's Health Policy Report, 1/17). . . . According to Barria, President Michelle Bachelet on Monday signed a new decree -- which is expected to be cleared by the General Comptroller's Office this week -- that would resume the program (AP/CBS News, 1/30). The decree includes an amendment that requires teens requesting EC to receive counseling (BBC News, 1/30).
Read the full article in Kaiser Daily Women's Health Report.