Chile Urged to Reconsider "Morning After" Pill

It´s Abortive and Unconstitutional, Nation´s Bishops Say

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SANTIAGO, Chile, MAR. 21, 2001 ( Chile´s bishops have urged the government to abandon the idea of authorizing the sale of the «morning after» pill, since it is an abortive medication and goes against the country´s constitution, which expressly defends the right to life.

In a document published Tuesday by the episcopate´s Permanent Committee, the bishops state: «Recent scientific knowledge points out that a few minutes after the sexual act a good number of spermatozoids has reached the fallopian tube, where the ovum is awaiting fertilization. Hence, the use of the ´morning after pill´ is clearly abortive, because it acts against a being who already certainly has the inestimable gift of life.»

The document responds to statements made by Health Minister Michelle Bachelet, who contended that the pill is «an emergency contraceptive … but not abortive.» In announcing the Ministry of Health´s decision Monday, Bachelet said that the morning-after pill will only be sold under medical prescription.

The bishops warned that the elimination of a human being, even in the first moments of life, violates the Chilean Constitution. They emphasized that the concept that «the individual human being generated should have greater or lesser value to be respected and protected, according to the state of development in which he finds himself, violates a fundamental principle that inspires society, which is protection of the unborn, recognized in our constitution.»

President Ricardo Lagos did not take into account the bishops´ observations and said: «I am president of all Chileans, and I cannot impose the points of view of some on others.»

The bishops countered by noting that some people think «public authority should not keep ethical and social considerations in mind when authorizing [the pill´s] use, but limit itself to certify the technical quality of those means.»

«We do not think such ideas are appropriate,» the bishops wrote. «They imply moving such fundamental issues as those related to human procreation from the public to the private realm, leaving the most defenseless being, who results from the fertilization of the feminine ovum by the masculine spermatozoid, without social protection. The defense of human life and the strengthening and protection of marriage and the family are duties of society and of the state that represents it.»

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