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Argentina places morning-after pill over the counter

woman debates taking pill

Uvgroup | Shutterstock

J-P Mauro - published on 06/03/23

The new legislation does away with the requirement for a prescription to obtain "emergency contraceptives," as well as scrapping age minimums.

Argentina has eased access to so-called emergency contraceptives, also known as “the morning-after pill” or “Plan-B,” after the government decided to remove the requirement for a prescription. The move is said to broaden “reproductive rights” in the South American nation, the homeland of Pope Francis, where it is estimated that over 90% of the population identifies as Catholic. 

Emergency contraceptives are pills that introduce hormones to the body, but there is debate about how the pills might act.

Two days before Christmas in 2022, the FDA in the United States changed its Drug Facts Label for Plan B One-Step (PBOS), a popular form of chemical abortion, removing language that, since 2006, had stated that it “may inhibit implantation (by altering the endometrium).” 

“The FDA’s action has created the impression that PBOS and similar, generic levonorgestrel-based drugs used for ’emergency contraception’ (LNG-EC) have no effect on the survival of a human being conceived following sexual assault,” says a formal response to the FDA’s action from the National Catholic Bioethics Center.

“The FDA did not fully address a well-known concern that LNG- EC can prevent pregnancy even after it fails to prevent ovulation,” the NCBC said. “Since this important issue was not resolved and concerns about LNG-EC’s post-fertilization effects remain, the National Catholic Bioethics Center will maintain its longstanding position that Catholic health care institutions and professionals should ensure with moral certitude (that is, by excluding any reasonable doubts), at a minimum, that LNG-EC is not dispensed when it could not prevent ovulation but may well cause the death of an embryo. Catholics should resist legislation that requires dispensing of LNG-EC on the basis of a negative pregnancy test alone.”

In January, the FDA made a regulatory change that allows retail pharmacies to offer abortion pills to people who have a prescription.

The morning-after pill is available without restrictions in 70 countries including the United States, with many countries in Latin America requiring prescriptions or installing age minimums to access the product. 

In 2020, the Church in Argentina pushed back against a bill that would allow abortion up to 14 weeks into a pregnancy. This bill, however, was smoothly passed through the legislature. Reuters reports that the move to loosen restrictions on the morning-after pill is just one of a wave of “liberalizing legislation,” which has been prevalent in the region of late. Prior to this bill, abortion in Argentina had been reserved for cases of rape or an imminent risk to the mother’s health.

According to the BBC, the official announcement from the Argentine government stated that the new legislation will help do away with “difficulties of access to health services, contraception supplies, and education.”

DerquiXlaVida, Argentina’s leading pro-life group, noted concerns that the move enables abusers. The group wrote that the change was a bid by the government to promote “abortive measures.” 

“It’s a way of recognizing the failure of pregnancy prevention, sex education, and the responsibility and even persecution of authors and promoters of sexual abuse,” read DerquiXlaVida’s statement.

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