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Honduras close to allowing morning-after pill for rape cases

President Xiomara Castro’s administration in Honduras has said it will greenlight the use of the emergency contraceptive pill — also known as the morning-after pill — for victims of rape.

The decision, which is yet to be implemented, comes after a decade of activist efforts to lift a total ban on the pill in the Honduran healthcare system, the only country in Latin America to prohibit its use.

The pill was banned by Congress in 2009 on the grounds that it could induce abortions. Then-president Manuel Zelaya vetoed the bill but he was ousted in a coup later that year, and the ban was maintained.

President Castro — Mr. Zelaya’s wife — came to power this year with women’s rights as part of her agenda.

The country has also faced pressure from organizations such as Amnesty International, which published a report in 2012 urging against the restriction on the morning-after pill, saying women and girls would see their “fundamental rights jeopardized.” Local courts in 2009 said the ban did not violate the Honduran Constitution.

Feminist groups remain skeptical of the decision by the Castro administration, saying it is but a grain of sand in terms of civil rights. Health Minister José Manuel Matheu said the government is making the pill available “because it is not a contraceptive method.”

Honduras, an extremely religious country split between Catholics and evangelical Protestants (although the Catholic Church claims its followers represent over 70 percent of the population), has one of the region’s most restrictive abortion laws, punishing women with up to ten years in prison even in cases of miscarriage and termination of pregnancy caused by rape or incest. The Central American nation is also plagued by gender violence, with crimes frequently going unpunished.

The authorization of the morning-after pill in specific cases will not change the reality of the total abortion ban.

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