In 2012 the Supreme Court of Honduras had a vicious ruling: emergency contraception was to be criminalized after years of immense political debates that began to intensify just months before the 2009 Honduran Constitutional Crisis. It’s important to understand that the logic here stems from abortion being largely and nearly universally illegal in Honduras and that Honduran legislators and the Supreme Court viewed emergency contraception as abortion inducing.
This brings us to an important point: emergency contraception is not an abortion-inducing medication. Emergency contraception works by preventing pregnancies not ending them. If someone is pregnant emergency contraception will not work. Emergency contraception is not a very early abortion but rather a last-ditch measure meant to help reduce the chances of a pregnancy occurring in the first place. There are Christian publications worldwide and even Catholic groups who recognize this absolutely critical difference and an article from Christianity Today in 2013 wrote about it at great length showcasing groups and individuals who changed their minds about emergency contraception after studying what the scientific and medical communities have had to say on the matter.
Despite scientific and medical communities, even in Honduras, recognizing this crucial fact about emergency contraception it continues to be outlawed in Honduras. This has not gone unchallenged and various publications in Honduras have reported on efforts to legalize emergency contraception. Personally one of the newspapers I prefer to read on this topic is Presencia Universitaria because generally their posts on this matter are well-written.
Presencia Universitaria, a newspaper from the National Autonomous University of Honduras, has reported on the various discussions that have taken place around this contentious topic with a post from as early as 2014 showcasing the position of a faculty member who is aware of the differences between abortion-inducing medication and emergency contraception. In this post Carolina Alduvin talks about the differences between the two and it’s worth the time of any bilingual people reading this post to go and read what Professor Alduvin has to say on the matter.
In August of 2015 another excellent post from Presencia Universitaria explored this topic at greater length including with the help of a group of people from Doctors Without Borders. One of the statements in this article is that in nearly all of the countries this group works they can provide this medication, aside from Honduras. The article also includes this heartbreaking statement: “This is an ethical dilemma for us and our team, who treat women, teenagers, and young girls who’ve been sexually assaulted. Day after day we treat these victims and are legally unable to provide medication which can prevent unwanted pregnancies”.
In the post Henry Rodriguez who served as the head of the regional mission for Mexico and Honduras also pointed out the ignorance and misinformation of many participants in this conversation on a national level when he said: “The primary problem is when we hear people who conflate the PAE (Emergency Contraception Pill) and abortion. They speak about it like the PAE is an abortion pill but it’s not. That generates confusion as to the true functions of this medication and people continue to not understand how this works.” This ruling has survived and gone undefeated because of scientific ignorance perpetuated by government officials. This has prevented organizations like Doctors Without Borders from preventing pregnancies among rape victims and survivors of sexual assault as well as women who want to decide when they begin having children.
This ruling and its effects on Honduras showcase the danger of scientific illiteracy when government officials do not understand the science behind birth-control and the ways that birth-control actually prevents pregnancies. More attention needs to be paid to this issue, especially as Honduras inches ever closer to the November 2017 election.