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Last Updated: Tuesday, 30 January 2007, 11:31 GMT
Emergency pill for Chilean girls
Chilean President Michelle Bachelet
President Bachelet has faced opposition from the Church
Chile's president has signed a decree so that the morning-after contraceptive pill can be given to girls as young as 14 without their parents' consent.

Earlier this month the Constitutional Court ruled that the executive could not authorise the pill in such cases.

The government says teenagers have 40,000 unwanted pregnancies a year.

The Catholic Church and opposition parties are against the move - they say the morning-after pill is a method of abortion, which is illegal in Chile.

Counselling

President Michelle Bachelet's government announced last year that it would allow public health centres to give the morning-after pill to girls of 14 and older, even if they did not have the consent of their parents.

However, two weeks ago, the Constitutional Court ruled that the health minister did not have the power to do so and the distribution of the pill was halted.

The decree signed on Monday includes an amendment which requires teenagers to receive counselling when they are given the pill.

The move has also been opposed by some Christian Democrats, whose party forms part of the governing coalition. They argue that parents should be consulted.

Despite having some of the most restrictive anti-abortion laws in the world, it is estimated that in Chile 35% of all pregnancies are terminated illegally.

The morning-after pill may prevent pregnancy if a woman takes it within 72 hours of having sexual intercourse.

It works by stopping or delaying ovulation, or by stopping an egg settling in the womb.


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