High Court in Colombia Refuses to Outlaw "Morning-After Pill"

Council of State of Colombia Rules that Drug Doesn't Violate Right to Life

NEW YORK -- Today, the Center for Reproductive Rights applauded a decision by Colombia's highest administrative court not to deny women legal access to emergency contraception. In a landmark decision, which was issued on June 5, the Council of State ruled against anti-choice groups' efforts to ban emergency contraception. The court found that emergency contraception, commonly known as the "morning-after pill," is a contraceptive method and not an abortifacient, as argued by the plaintiff, and therefore, access to emergency contraception is in accordance with the right to life as established in the Colombian constitution.

The Center for Reproductive Rights filed a friend-of-the-court brief in the case in December 2004, supporting the Colombian government's 2000 decision to approve the sale and distribution of Postinor 2, a drug used as emergency contraception (EC). The Center's brief argued that granting the citizen's petition, which sought to remove Postinor 2 from the national drug registry, would be contrary to international human rights law and medical fact. It would violate the rights of Colombian women to autonomy in reproductive decision-making and the right to have access to a range of safe and effective contraceptive methods.

Lilian Sépulveda, regional manager and legal adviser for Latin America and the Caribbean at the Center for Reproductive Rights, issued this statement in response:

"This is a momentous decision for the women of Colombia. A woman's health and well-being are inextricably linked to her ability to decide whether and when to have children. Inhibiting that ability not only violates her rights to autonomy under Colombia's Constitution, but fundamental human rights principles to health, equality, and non-discrimination. Other courts in Colombia and around the world are increasingly recognizing these protections. In fact, in a recent ruling on another reproductive health issue, abortion, the Colombian Constitutional Court eased restrictions in the country's abortion law, explaining that protecting sexual and reproductive rights is a 'direct path to promoting the dignity of all human beings.' The Council of State's decision is yet another major step toward the global recognition of the fundamental truth that women's full citizenship is only realized when they have the autonomy to determine the course of their lives."

The Council of State's decision is in stark contrast to the recent decision by the Constitutional Court of Chile to ban the distribution of emergency contraception in the country's public health facilities. That ruling created two classes of women in Chile -- a minority who can afford emergency contraception and a majority who cannot.