Oh those uppity Chilean women!

They dare to defy the Catholic church? And to order pharmacies to fill orders for the Morning-After Pill? What next, a female president?

Oh wait. They have one already. Never mind…

The Chilean government has warned pharmacies refusing to sell the morning-after contraceptive pill that they could face stiff fines or closure.

Major pharmacy chains have not been selling the pill recently, arguing they could not buy stocks locally.

The government responded by importing supplies and said the stores now had no excuse for not selling the pill.


Deputy Health Minister Lidia Amarales warned that the government would be prepared to close a pharmacy that refused to sell the morning-after pill.

One of the chains, Salcobrand, said the government’s actions were a violation of its freedom of opinion about the pill which it said was abortive. “We express conscientious objection to being forced to sell a product that can have that effect,” a Salcobrand company statement quoted by the Associated Press said.

On Monday, Pope Benedict XVI said in Rome that pharmacists had the right to conscientiously object to dispensing emergency contraception or euthanasia drugs.

“Pharmacists must seek to raise people’s awareness so that all human beings are protected from conception to natural death, and so that medicines truly play a therapeutic role,” the Pope said.

We can see here that both Salcobrand and the Pope are still buying the hype about the Pill–namely that it can abort a pregnancy.

This is bullshit.

Every brand of the Pill that I’ve ever taken–and I’ve used three or four–specifically states in the consumer health leaflet in every packet that “this product will not terminate an existing pregnancy”, or words to that effect. Women who think they may be pregnant are advised not to take the Pill, but not because it can abort anything; rather, because it will not prevent what’s already happened, and because the hormones it contains can have unintended health effects on the fetus. And pharmaceutical companies, ever on the lookout against lawsuits, want to make sure no woman ever sues them for being the cause of her child’s birth defects, even if they had nothing to do with the Pill she was on.

The Pill works by preventing ovulation; as my doctor explained to me when I first went on it, it tricks a woman’s body into thinking it’s already pregnant. Once pregnant, there’s no need for it to release another egg, so for the duration of the pregnancy, the ovaries go into hibernation. Ergo, if you can trick a woman’s body into thinking it’s already preggers, you can stop ovulation. The way to do this is to elevate her estrogen and progesterone levels to roughly the same place they’d be if she were really pregnant. That’s why the combination Pill is so effective at preventing pregnancy–if 100 women took it as directed for a year, 99 would not get pregnant. But even if it’s taken as is typical–occasional missed doses, for example–only two women out of every hundred, at most, get pregnant. That means 98 or 99 out of 100 women on the Pill have successfully tricked their ovaries into taking an extended snooze.

The Morning-After Pill works on the same basic principle. If taken within 72 hours of intercourse, it can either prevent ovulation, or cause changes in the lining of the uterus that make it impossible for a fertilized egg to implant. In other words, it prevents pregnancy.

But for some strange reason, preventing pregnancy = abortion in the eyes of the Church. That’s because the Church subscribes to the misconception that a fertilized egg = a child. Even if it’s just one little cell swimming lonesomely down the Fallopian tube, it’s already a complete human being, says the Pope. And if the womb rejects it, that’s an abortion!

Never mind that as many as two-thirds of all fertilized eggs are just naturally lost that way, as I was surprised to learn in second-year university biology. Never mind that the woman never knew she had a zygote or a blastocyst whitewater-rafting down her tubes. Never mind that the Red Tide just naturally washed it all away before she could ever have known she was knocked up. That, says the World’s Foremost Celibate, is an abortion!

Um, no. Actually, it’s not. Non-implantation of a fertilized egg, whether natural or Pill-associated, is not an abortion. Abortion–or miscarriage–only happens after implantation has taken place. The fact that natural rejection of fertilized eggs is so commonplace that it passes theologically unremarked should tell you something about the Pope’s biological understanding.

And this is leaving out all the implanted pregnancies that are also naturally lost–which means that a solid majority of all conceptions never make it to birth, even if medically induced abortion is left out of the picture.

And you know what that means, in theological terms?

God is the biggest abortionist there is.

Of course, the Pope would call that heresy. But hey, that’s life. Life itself is a heresy because it doesn’t live up to theological misconceptions.

And if Chilean women want to reduce the number of conceptions that won’t make it to birth anyoldhow, that’s fine with me. And it should be fine with anyone who really cares about life, because unwanted pregnancy is a major killer of young women, especially in countries where abortion is illegal. (Are you paying attention, Daniel Ortega?)

As for those “conscientious” pharmacists who won’t sell the Pill–I think they need a refresher course in basic biological science. And if that doesn’t work, maybe they should seek another career, one that doesn’t tax their misinformed consciences. Chile still has high unemployment rates, and I’m sure there are plenty of Chileans who would, with training, happily take the place of an unscientific ex-pharmacist.

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