Peru’s Highest Court Rules Against ECDigg This!
from our friend Elizabeth Westley at ICEC
Please find below my summary and interpretation of a recent decision in Peru. My thanks to our colleagues at the Center for Reproductive Rights for helping me understand the implications of this case. Any errors are mine alone!
Peru’s Highest Court Rules Against EC
Peru’s Constitutional Court (Tribunal Constitucional) has stopped the Ministry of Health’s free distribution of EC in a decision issued on October 22nd. In addition, this decision requires local distributors of EC to add a warning to the package insert stating that this product could cause an abortion.
The Court has decided on a case brought to them by a non-profit advocacy group in 2004. The decision released last week states that the Ministry of Health failed to adequately prove “the inexistence of the abortifacient effect, the inhibition of the implantation of the fertilized ovum in the endometrium.” The Court therefore concluded that EC could in fact cause an abortion, in violation of Peru’s constitutional protection of life. This decision contradicts the Mechanism of Action Fact Sheet issued by ICEC and the International Federation of Gynecology and Obstetrics issued in October 2008, as well as the World Health Organization’s Fact Sheet on Levonorgestrel-alone EC. Both these statements summarize a growing body of scientific literature that shows that delaying or preventing ovulation is the most likely and perhaps only mechanism by which EC effectively prevents pregnancy.
The decision means that the Ministry of Health cannot distribute EC for free through its public clinics. EC can still be sold in Peru, but only with a warning stating that it might cause an abortion.
The Court cited the US FDA website as well as drug labeling for Plan B and several other EC products as evidence that EC may prevent the implantation of a fertilized egg. It is clear that drug labeling is playing a key role in these cases, and it is unfortunate that many levonorgestrel-alone EC products carry labels that do not reflect current science.
This Peru case is very similar to ones in Ecuador and Chile, and may represent a trend towards protecting the rights of the “conceived” using weak science as a strategy to limit access to EC. Clearly, some Latin American courts are now considering that life begins at conception and not at implantation. Along the same lines, efforts have been launched in several states in the US to “protect life from the beginning of biological development.”