Spain’s Socialist Government Approves EC Without Prescription


Regardless of age or
province of residence, all Spanish women will have access to the emergency
contraception pill (EC) without a prescription. It will be in pharmacies by
August.

The morning-after pill was authorized in Spain in
2001, and it is distributed for free by public health centers in some regions,
while in others, it is more difficult to obtain due to the particular ways of
implementing the national norms by the regional administrators of the health
care system.

Socialists leaders argue that
the measure will contribute to eradicating the territorial inequality regarding
the access to family planning methods.

Currently, the pill is sold in pharmacies
for 20 euros (about 27 US Dollars) with prescription. But, according to Concha
Martín, director of the Family Planning Association of Madrid, women often have
to go to several doctors before finding one who will prescribe the EC.

That is why, for the Socialists, the
announcement is part of a package of measures promoting "the development of the
fundamental right to sexual and reproductive health for all citizens."

"The aim
is to make it available to anyone who wants it without any difficulty," said
the Ministry of Health’s Trinidad Jimenez, who made the announcement May 11th.

Jimenez underscored that EC
use is aimed to "avoid unwanted pregnancies" and "unexpected sexual relations
without protection," therefore it cannot be regarded as routine method of
contraception.

Nevertheless,
the General Secretary of the Sociedad Española de Ginecología y Obstetricia (Gynecology
and Obstetric Spaniard Society), Luis T., called the governmental measure
"frivolous." Mercé Alberto argues that there is a risk, especially among young
women, of using EC as a regular contraceptive method for occasional sexual
intercourse.

Mercé Alberto added that the
generalization of its use as conventional contraceptive "could increase the
number of unwanted pregnancies and sexually transmission diseases as well."

In addition, this measure
did not address sexuality education, which is a problem to be solved by the
school system, Mercé Alberto pointed out.

"Emergency contraceptive
pills are for emergency use only and not appropriate for regular use as an
ongoing contraceptive method because of the higher possibility of failure
compared to modern contraceptives. In addition, frequent use of emergency
contraception results in more side-effects, such as menstrual irregularities.
However, their repeated use poses no known health risks,"

According to an
official document of the World
Health Organization
.

Some associations of consumers have asked
for more information in order to avoid the use of the morning-after-pill as a
conventional contraception method.

The
conservative forces, such as the Catholic Church and the conservative
opposition, the Popular Party, have reacted by arguing that the number of
abortions will increase as a result of its implementation.

Socialist leaders said statistics in
countries that have made the pill available over the counter, such as the United States and France, show it has helped reduce the
number of abortions significantly.

According to official data of the Ministry of Health, of the 112,000 women who had
abortions in Spain
in 2007, 6,000 were minors.

For many people, sexuality education and
access to contraception are the ways to diminish unwanted pregnancies and
abortions.

A Spanish blogger stated that this measure
will reinforce sexist behaviors. "Probably many men from their male condition
will say "Thanks." Once again, the consequences of a not thought-out act can be
stopped with just a pill. I am worried because day by day it is getting harder
to explain to a daughter that a woman is equal to a man, and she deserves
respect."

So far, pharmacies have
not expressed any objection. The Ministry of Health is confident that its
managers will not argue conscience objection, since the pill is not abortive.

According to the World Health Organization, "Levonorgestrel emergency contraceptive pills have
been shown to prevent ovulation and they did not have any detectable effect on
the endometrium (uterine lining) or progesterone levels when given after
ovulation. ECPs are not effective once the process of implantation has begun,
and will not cause abortion."

"Emergency contraceptive
pills prevent pregnancy. They should not be given to a woman who already has a
confirmed pregnancy. However, if a woman inadvertently takes the pills after
she became pregnant, the limited available evidence suggests that the pills
will not harm either the mother or her fetus."

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  • invalid-0

    I’m very impressed that Spain is using actual medical facts and basing its policies in reality. That’s exactly what those of us who want to lessen the need for abortions are working for in the United States and the same methods would work here: raising women’s respect for themselves, sexuality education and cheap, easily available birth control.