Struggle over Morning After Pill in Chile

Following through on her threat earlier this month, Chile's President Michelle Bachelet signed a decree Monday authorizing the distribution of abortifacient emergency contraception to girls as young as 14 without their parents' consent, the latest move in a drawn-out battle over efforts to legalize the drug in the country.

Distribution of the drug was halted earlier this month when the Constitutional Court ruled that the Health Minister did not have the power to authorize handing out the drug to minors, after 32 legislators petitioned the court to rule on the issue, backed by Catholic Church leaders.

The lawmakers argued that the drug violates the country's anti-abortion laws by causing early abortions when taken after fertilization of the egg has occurred. They also argued that giving the drug to minor girls without their parents' knowledge was a violation of parental rights.

In ruling on the issue, the court avoided the question of abortion and parental rights by addressing the technicality of the executive's lack of legitimate authority in permitting the drug's distribution.

Jorge Reyes, attorney for the legislators opposing the drug, said a presidential decree would not end the matter, at the time of the Court ruling earlier this month, saying if a decree was issued, "We will go back to the court to object to other aspects of the program that we consider unconstitutional."

The decree includes an amendment that requires teenagers to receive counseling when they obtain the pill.

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