Honduras will authorise the use of the morning-after pill for rape victims after more than a decade of total restrictions, the country’s health minister has announced, though a complete ban on abortion continues.
The heavily Catholic nation introduced an absolute ban on the use and sale of the morning-after pill in 2009, but hinted at softening its stance in extreme cases in recent years.
The only Latin American nation currently with an all-out ban on the morning-after pill, Honduras also punishes women who have abortions with up to six years in prison, including in cases of rape or incest.
“We are going to make the pill available for rape victims because it is not a contraceptive method,” Health Minister Jose Matheu said during an event with women’s organisations last week. “We are waiting for it to come out of the regulations unit to sign it off.”
It remains unclear how health authorities would verify rape allegations or distribute the pill.
Feminist organisations say the latest shift in policy is not enough to deal with unwanted pregnancies, especially in a country with the second highest rate of teenage pregnancies in Latin America, according to United Nations data.
“This announcement is insufficient,” said Maria Elena Mendez, head of the Honduran Women’s Rights Center. “Other girls who get pregnant also face discrimination and cannot continue with work and studies, entering into a circle of marginalisation and misery.”
Women’s and human rights groups continue to demand the decriminalisation of abortion in Honduras where around 50,000 to 80,000 back-street abortions occur each year, local reproductive rights groups estimated in 2019.