Argentina has recently announced that women will no longer need a prescription to access emergency contraception, in a move aimed at removing a significant obstacle for those seeking to prevent unintended pregnancies. Feminist groups have applauded this decision as a positive step forward in the predominantly Catholic nation, while opponents argue that it highlights the failure of pregnancy prevention initiatives.
The government’s decision to make the morning-after pill more readily available is expected to help counteract the challenges some individuals face in accessing health services, contraception supplies, and education. Valeria Isla, director of sexual and reproductive health at the health ministry, told Reuters news agency that this change eliminates a major barrier to access, enabling people to have this method of contraception as support before an emergency arises.
Vanessa Gagliardi, leader of the feminist group Juntas y a la Izquierda, said the move would contribute to “de-stigmatising” the morning-after pill in a country where official data reveals that seven out of ten adolescent pregnancies are unplanned. However, Argentine pro-life group DerguiXlaVida expressed concern, accusing the government of “essentially orienting itself towards promoting abortive measures” and acknowledging the “failure of pregnancy prevention [and] sex education”.
This development is indicative of the ongoing progress on reproductive rights in Argentina, one of the largest and most influential countries in Latin America, where the Catholic Church still holds considerable sway. In 2020, Argentina legalised abortions up to the 14th week of pregnancy, a decision that was opposed by the Church, which had urged senators to reject the bill. Prior to this, terminations were only permitted in cases of rape or when the mother’s health was in danger.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), emergency contraception pills, commonly known as morning-after pills, can prevent pregnancy by blocking the fertilisation of the egg when taken within 120 hours of unprotected sex, although they are more effective within 12 hours. The WHO also states that emergency contraception, including emergency contraceptive pills and copper-bearing intrauterine devices, can prevent approximately 95% of pregnancies when taken within five days of intercourse.
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