One of Michelle Bachelet, Chile’s latest president who took office in March of this year, key health initiatives was the universal distribution of the “morning after pill” to every woman in Chile that required it. Currently, the “morning after pill” is available under prescription and medical advice for around GBP £12 (11,000 Chilean pesos). Obviously the price places it out of the reach of many women in Chile. The new minister of health, Salud, Soledad Barría, stated during an interview to La Tercera, a leading Chilean newspaper, that the plan for the universal distribution of the pill would occur, but not in the short term, as the government was focused on more pressing health issues.
The Chilean Catholic Church strongly opposes the open distribution of the pill, claiming the universal distribution plan is purely based on social economic criteria that do not account for the “dignity of the individual” or the “potential of life”.
Many senators and political figures within Chile have already been expressing their views. A leading senator stated he believed the issue was not one of “morality but of hygiene and well being”. It is interesting to see how perspectives are slowly changing in a very traditional Catholic country like Chile - the “moral value” of actions is no longer the only factor being considered when discussing issues such as abortion and sex. However it is clear, the government is seen as an important influence in matters regarding abortion and sex - calls for a government sponsored campaign to educate young people about sex and the alternatives to abortion - are still strong across all groups. What if instead of spending millions on an advertising campaign, the government set-up local programs for the professional and social development of high risk women in Chile?
More importantly, in a country like Chile, the issue of universal distribution of the “morning after pill”, comes down to trying to put an end to one of highest rates of illegal abortions in the continent. It is officially estimated close to 400,000 illegal abortions are performed in Chile, a country with a population of 15 million people – compared to between 1.2 to 1.5 million in the United States with a population of 275 million – a rate five to six times that of the United States.
Lets hope the debate of universal distribution of the “morning after pill” does not become a subject of Dark Matter Politics and that president Michelle Bachelet, as she has proved so far, can go against the status quo to ensure open choice for Chilean women.