Argentina Allows Morning-After Pill to be Bought Without Prescription.

Photo credit: NPR. Pills similar to these can now be bought over the counter in pharmacies in Argentina.
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By Editor-June 20th, 2023.

Women in Argentina will no longer require a prescription to get emergency contraception.

The government said making the morning-after pill more easily available removed an “important barrier” for those seeking to prevent pregnancy.

The move was welcomed by feminist groups, who see it as a sign of progress in the Catholic-majority country.

However pro-life campaigners said it sends out the wrong message.

Argentina’s health ministry said the measure would help avoid unintentional pregnancies by overcoming “difficulties of access to health services, contraception supplies, and education” faced by some.

“This removes an important barrier to access,” Valeria Isla, director of sexual and reproductive health at the ministry, told Reuters news agency.

“People can have this method of contraception as support before an emergency happens.”

Vanessa Gagliardi, leader of the feminist group Juntas y a la Izquierda, said the move would help “de-stigmatise” the morning-after pill in a country where seven out of 10 adolescent pregnancies were unplanned, according to official data.

Argentine pro-life group DerguiXlaVida called the measure worrying, accusing the government of “essentially orienting itself towards promoting abortive measures”.

It said the move was recognition of the “failure of pregnancy prevention [and] sex education”.

It is the latest sign of progress on reproductive rights in Argentina, one of the largest and most influential countries in Latin America, a region where the Catholic Church remains powerful.

In 2020, the country legalised abortions up to the 14th week of pregnancy, a move opposed by the Church, which had called on senators to reject the bill.

Terminations had previously only been allowed in cases of rape or when the mother’s health was at risk.

Emergency contraception pills – commonly known as morning-after pills – taken within 120 hours of unprotected sex prevent pregnancy by blocking the fertilisation of the egg,  although it is more effective within 12 hours.

Emergency contraception – including emergency contraceptive pills and copper-bearing intrauterine devices – can prevent about 95% of pregnancies when taken within five days of intercourse, the World Health Organization says.

Levonorgestrel morning-after pills, like Plan B, are arguably the most well-known emergency contraceptives. Other options include the Ella pill and the copper intrauterine device, more widely known as an IUD.

Their propoponents argue that they prevent a pregancy from taking place, rather then ending a pregancy, so are not covered by laws that forbid abortions.

In the wake of the US Supreme Court’s recent decision that declared that each state should decide for itself on matters of abortion and contraception, women throughout the U.S. can still buy and access emergency contraception like morning-after pills, so long as they have the $40 to $50 required.

In Argentina morning-after pills are widely available free of charge at clinics or hospitals, but can also be bought in pharmacies for the equivalent of US $5-$10.

Sources: BBC, news agencies.
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