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Revista Panamericana de Salud Pública

Print version ISSN 1020-4989

Abstract

MARTIN, Antonieta. Emergency contraception in Latin America and the Caribbean. Rev Panam Salud Publica [online]. 2004, vol.16, n.6, pp. 424-431. ISSN 1020-4989.  http://dx.doi.org/10.1590/S1020-49892004001200012.

Introducing the post-coital birth control method in the family-planning services of Latin American countries has not been an easy task. Catholic and other conservative groups with great influence in the political arena have time and again stopped it from being adopted as an alternative method and have even succeeded in having it removed from official directives after formal acceptance by health authorities. The main objections are triggered by the erroneous supposition that "emergency contraception" pills are abortifacients. However, a large dose of cultural discrimination against women seems also to be involved. It has been extremely difficult to register dedicated products and make them available in drugstores and even more difficult to distribute them without charge at public health centers. They are hard to find, expensive, and unavailable to adolescents at risk for unwanted pregnancies and to most low-income women, especially in rural areas. Dissemination of appropriate information has been scarce and slow and there are still great numbers of people that do not understand how or why the method works. Brazil has been the only exception, as its open society has readily accepted this method of contraception. The Latin American Consortium on Emergency Contraception founded in the year 2000 and its regional conference two years later had an important impact on the situation, as they encouraged the coordination of efforts by governmental and nongovernmental entities with those of women's groups to fight for sexual and reproductive rights. A number of studies have shown that the more people learn about emergency contraception, the more they find it acceptable and necessary, and radio spots and other media techniques have begun to educate the public about this matter. In spite of the many difficulties encountered, in the last few years several countries have made strides to include this method in their public health guidelines. However, because of the powerful forces against it, accessibility and distribution of the emergency pills are not always implemented as planned and there are still many areas that require work. Details are given on the situation in Argentina, Bolivia, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, Honduras, Mexico, Paraguay, and Peru.

Keywords : anticoncepción postcoital; planificación familiar; derechos de la mujer.

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