Chile Pharmacies Fined for Not Selling 'Morning-After' Pill

Following through with its threats, the Chilean government has fined more than 100 pharmacies for refusing to sell a controversial form of an emergency contraception – the "morning-after" pill.

Chilean pharmacies have received over $300,000 in fines for failing to obey a government mandate to carry the "morning-after" pill, or Levonorgestrel, in stores, according to the Australian Broadcasting Company.

Many pharmacies that rejected the order said dispensing the pill would violate their ethical, moral or religious beliefs.

Salcobrand, one of three major pharmacy chains, said the pill was abortive and selling it would violate the beliefs of their owners, who are members of the Catholic Church's conservative Opus Dei sect, according to the Santiago Times.

Two other major chains – Cruz Verde and Ahumada – that were fined in October assured stocks of the pill would be available in their stores. They said the absence of the pill from their stores was a matter of securing a steady shipment and not due to an ethical objection.

Individual pharmacy branches elsewhere in Chile were also fined.

A majority of the fines were imposed after the Constitutional Tribunal reviewed a request by a group of conservative lawmakers who have been seeking to overturn the government's rule requiring the availability of the pill, according to the Santiago Times.

The pill is marketed as a form of emergency contraception that can prevent pregnancy if taken within 72 hours of unprotected sex.

Both the Pope and the Catholic bishops of Chile have voiced their objections to the policy. In October, the Pope urged pharmacists to exercise a "conscientious objection" to dispensing drugs that would block pregnancy.

The Catholic Church condemns contraceptive use and abortion.

In a country where the majority of the population identify themselves as Roman Catholic, the Chilean government allows girls as young as 14 access to the "morning-after" pill without charge and without parental consent. The drug was approved by the Chilean Supreme Court in 2006.

Pro-life groups, however, argue that the pill violates Chile's anti-abortion law, pointing to research that shows the pill to be "abortive" rather than "anti-contraceptive."