.- Peru’s Health Minister, Pilar Mazzetti, tried to discredit the Archbishop of Lima, Cardinal Juan Luis Cipriani, last week arguing that only scientists can express an informed opinion about the abortifacient morning-after pill. Several days ago, Mazzetti given an award by the International Federation of Planned Parenthood for introducing the pill into Peru. She had claimed that it was not abortifacient, even though the world scientific community has not made that determination.
The controversy surround the pill was reignited last week when a judge in Lima placed on injunction on distribution of the pill until the Ministry of Health implements a policy that adequately informs women about its effects and consequences.
In response to Mazzetti’s insistence on distributing the drug, Cardinal Cipriani said Peruvians were being manipulated and denied information. “The information and the science that is divulged must be clear. If people are given poison, that would be discrimination,” he said.
Mazzetti, who some analysts say has made the defending the pill her primary focus, slammed the cardinal saying, “When one speaks of poison one must be a scientist in the field.”
“The institution that ought to determine whether or not something is poisonous is the Ministry of Health. We’re the ones with technical knowledge here, and in December of 2003 we issued a decision regarding this, which is still in force, and therefore the emergency oral contraceptive will continue [to be made available],” she said.
For Dr. Maita Garcia, expert on pro-life issues and member of the government commission that evaluated the potential abortifacient effect of the drug, “one characteristic of our day is that the healthy custom of calling things by their name is being lost. We react badly to words that have a meaning we don’t want to accept because they make us feel bad.”
“It’s sort of like what’s happening with the use of the word ‘poison’ with regard to the morning-after pill. If we stick to the dictionary, the usage of the word is perfectly correct. Poison is a substance that brings about death or serious harm to the body, as well as anything harmful to one’s health,” she added.
“Therefore,” she continued, “it is not so misguided to apply this word to the emergency oral contraceptive because it has not been disproved that it harms the health of the woman nor even less so, that it attacks the life of the human embryo. There is the possibility that for this new human being it really is poison.”
The spokesman for the Peruvian bishops’ Committee on the Family, Maggela Tejada, stated, “Keeping in mind that poison kills, it could be said that levonorgestrel (the essential substance in the morning-after pill) is poison because it kills the embryo.”
“We know that the morning-after pill has three potential effects on the body of the woman and one of them is that it can prevent implantation of the ovum. This means that the fertilized ovum can be eliminated, that is, it would die as a result of this drug,” he said.