Colombian High Court Rules Emergency Contraception Is Not Abortion

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Colombian High Court Rules Emergency Contraception Is Not Abortion

Angela Castellanos

The Colombian High Court has just ruled in favor of a governmental health agency's right to distribute emergency contraception pills within in public health care system.

Once again, emergency contraception is the focus of debate in Latin America, this time in Colombia,
where the high court Consejo de Estado has just ratified the government health agency INVIMA‘s authorization of importation and distribution of emergency contraception pills.

INVIMA’s declaration had been taken to court by
the citizen Carlos Humberto Gómez Arambula, who argued that the
EC is "abortive" and violated the right to life for Colombian citizens. This was the same argument that the Constitutional
Court of Chile used to ban the free distribution of emergency contraception in the public health system last
April.

Contrary to what happened in
Chile, the Colombian high court declared that EC is not abortive and does not fall afoul of the right to life. This is in line with
the World Health Organization, which has unequivocally stated that "Levonorgestrel
emergency contraceptive pills have been shown to prevent ovulation and
they did not have any detectable effect on the endometrium (uterine
lining) or progesterone levels when given after ovulation. Emergency
contraception pills are not effective once the process of implantation has begun, and will not cause abortion."

Progestin-only
EC is available as a dedicated emergency contraceptive product under
many names worldwide, and in Colombia under the name of Postinor-2.

Sex. Abortion. Parenthood. Power.

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In 2000, Postinor-2 received
the Colombian sanitary registration from Invima, and therefore was authorized
for importation and distribution with prescription by Profamilia, a sexual and reproductive health
service provider. Profamilia demanded that Invima remove the prescription
requirement, arguing that since 1996 the EC was internationally declared free of medical contraindications. Invima responded that the prescription
was imposed as a way to make sure that women will receive medical counseling
regarding it use and effects, particularly that it is not an appropriate contraception
method for frequent use and that does not prevent sexually
transmission diseases.

The prescription can be an obstacle to EC’s useful function, because EC can only be
used up to 72 hours after sexual intercourse. But Profamilia offers counseling
and prescription without appointment. And all women who seek contraception from Profamilia’s doctors are informed
about EC pills and provided with prescription in case of need.

Since 2001, Profamilia has sold Postinor-2 through its health centers across Colombia. Other EC
products are available in the market, although there are not authorized
by Invima.

In addition, Profamilia has
a website called Día Después (Morning After), where users can find
useful information on how to use EC pills and chat with a "virtual gynecologist."

In other Latin American countries
there have been attempts to eliminate the access to EC. On April 4,
the Constitutional Court of Chile banned the free distribution of EC
in the public health system, which had been included in the National Norms
on Fertility Regulation in 2006 through a Supreme Act of the Chilean
President, Michelle Bachelet.

In Argentina, a 2006 sentence from
the federal justice nearly halted EC’s distribution, but
currently it is available without prescription and free of charge in
public hospitals.

According to the Consorcio Latinoamericano
de Anticoncepción de Emergencia
, fifteen Latin American countries have EC products registered. In some other
countries, like Mexico, Ecuador and Brazil, EC is
included in the health public services. In some countries, including Dominican
Republic, El Salvador and Bolivia, it is distributed without prescription.
Next, there are countries where it is not distributed for free in public
health services, but it is sold without prescription, as in Venezuela
and Nicaragua. In addition, in countries such as Uruguay, Paraguay
and Peru, some EC products are delivered for free in the public
health services, but not all the EC products are offered.