Honduras’ first woman president legalises morning-after-pill

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Honduras’ first woman president legalises morning-after-pill

Honduran President Xiomara Castro has overturned a 13-year ban on the emergency contraceptive pill.

The country’s first-ever woman leader said she had made the change by executive order for International Women’s Day, on 8 March.

The morning-after pill was “part of women’s reproductive rights, and not abortive”, she said on social media.

President Castro, who took office in 2022, has promised to relax Honduras’s restrictive reproductive rights laws.

Honduras, a largely Catholic Central American country, banned the use of the morning-after pill following a coup in 2009 that ousted Xiomara Castro’s husband, then-President Manuel Zelaya.

Last December, following campaigns from feminist groups, the health ministry approved the use of the pill exclusively for victims of rape.

During an interview for a BBC documentary on black market abortion pills, filmed in July 2022, Honduran Health Secretary Jose Manuel Matheu said that the country would never change its stance on the issue.

“We are not going to promote the morning-after pill as contraception,” he said at the time, adding that doing would lead to “sexual debauchery”.

The term “desenfreno sexual” (sexual debauchery) went viral in Honduras on Twitter following the release of the documentary in December, with activists criticising Dr Matheu’s choice of words.

On 8 March, Dr Matheu was photographed alongside President Castro signing the executive order – although he did not respond to BBC requests for comment.

Reproductive rights activist Sandy Artega welcomed President Castro’s decision, but said there was more work to be done.

“We will monitor the process of implementing the morning-after pill and we will fight for the other rights that we lack,” she told the BBC. “The door is now open for more sexual and reproductive rights.”

Abortion is illegal in all cases in Honduras, punishable by up to six years in prison, even in cases of rape or incest.

According to a UN estimate, between 51,000 and 82,000 unsafe abortions are performed in Honduras each year.