Sunday, December 17, 2006

Freedom is Slavery

From the NYT:

SANTIAGO, Chile, Dec. 16 — President Michelle Bachelet of Chile is a feminist and physician who used to practice pediatric medicine at public clinics in poor neighborhoods. So it was hardly surprising that her government recently liberalized contraception policy by making the so-called morning-after pill available free at state-run hospitals.

But since Chile is perhaps the most socially conservative country in South America, the measure has generated complaints and challenges not only on the right, but even from some of her allies. Opponents of the policy are furious because girls as young as 14 are being allowed to have access to the emergency contraception without any requirement that their parents be notified.

“It is hard to understand the motive for such a reaction,” Maria Soledad Barria, the minister of health and a physician, said in an interview here this week. After all, she noted, the age of consent in Chile is 14, and the morning-after pill, also known as Plan B emergency contraception, has been available at private pharmacies catering to the well-to-do for five years and has survived court challenges.

According to government statistics, 15 percent of all births in Chile are to mothers 18 or younger, most too poor to afford private care. Ms. Bachelet has framed the issue as one of social justice, arguing that because “not everyone is equal and not everyone has the same possibilities,” her duty is “to guarantee that all Chileans have real options in this area, as in others.”

The influential Roman Catholic Church, however, has condemned distribution of the pill as a form of abortion that encourages promiscuity and intrudes on personal freedoms. In a statement, the national conference of bishops said the government’s actions are “reminiscent of public policies established in totalitarian regimes, by which the state aimed to regulate the intimate lives of its citizens.”

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