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Govt nixes OTC morning after pill

Decision goes against previous indications that existing legislation would be changed

Women's groups have mostly been in favor of relaxing rules on obtaining the pill Women's groups have mostly been in favor of relaxing rules on obtaining the pill
  • Stephen Hong, Seoul
  • Korea
  • August 30, 2012
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The government yesterday cancelled a plan to offer the contraceptive pill over-the-counter despite previously indicating it would reform existing laws.

In an announcement which had been expected to confirm that the sale of the pill would be permitted without prescription, the director for medical policy at the Ministry of Health, Kim Won-jong, instead confirmed legislation would remain unchanged.

“The pill will not be switched from prescription to over-the-counter,” he said during a press conference in Seoul.

The decision – a subject of much debate in South Korea – comes after the government indicated the exact opposite in June.

Kim was non-committal on emergency contraception, another hotly debated topic.

“Really difficult challenges in our society make it hard to reach a consensus,” he said, adding that discussions on the issue had taken place with civic, religious and medical groups.

Cho Ki-won, director of medicine safety at the Korea Food and Drug Administration, said authorities would monitor the effects of the pill over the next few years before a possible change in policy.

Leading members of the Church in Korea welcomed the decision while women and pharmacists denounced it.

The Korean Catholic Bishops’ Conference reiterated that “the pill is an abortive medicine killing life,” while Korean Womenlink said “the government’s decision does not protect Women’s right to self-determination."

According to government figures, South Korea recorded 342,000 abortions in 2005, which dropped significantly in 2010 to 169,000.

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