Argentina Eases Access to ‘Morning-after Pill’, Removing Barrier for Women Seeking Abortion

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The government said making the morning-after pill more easily available removed an "important barrier" for those seeking terminations.

Women in Argentina will no longer require a prescription to obtain emergency contraception, commonly known as the “morning after pill’, the government said Wednesday, broadening reproductive rights in the traditionally conservative country.

It said making the pill more easily available removed an “important barrier” for those seeking terminations.

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

“This removes an important barrier to access,” Valeria Isla, the ministry’s director of sexual and reproductive health told Reuters. “People can have this method of contraception as support before an emergency happens.”

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

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

“For a long time, it was thought to induce an abortion, which is not true,” Gagliardi said, referring to the common criticism of emergency contraception from pro-life groups.

But critics have said Wednesday’s move displayed a “failure of pregnancy prevention”.

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 a 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.

The Catholic country and homeland of Pope Francis approved a law in December 2020 that legalises 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 is a hormonal pill taken within 120 hours of unprotected sex to prevent pregnancy by blocking the fertilisation of the egg, according to the World Health Organization (WHO), 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 WHO says.