Honduras lifts decade-long ban on 'morning after pill'

Honduras enters partial state of emergency amid gang crackdown
Honduras' President Xiomara Castro addresses the crowd at a military ceremony for the 197th anniversary of the Armed Forces, after mobilizing thousands of police officers to areas controlled by criminal groups, in Tegucigalpa, Honduras December 9, 2022. REUTERS/Fredy Rodriguez

TEGUCIGALPA, March 8 (Reuters) - Honduran President Xiomara Castro signed an executive order on Wednesday ending a ban of more than 10 years on the use and sale of the "morning after pill," fulfilling a campaign promise long-awaited by feminist groups.

Castro, the country's first female president, took office last year after running on the promise of rolling back the country's restrictive reproductive policies.

Honduras, a heavily Catholic nation, banned the use and sale of the morning after pill in 2009, arguing the emergency contraception would cause abortions.

Castro opened its use to rape victims in November.

The Central American country criminalizes abortions, with those convicted facing up to six years in prison, even in cases of rape or incest.

Castro, who signed the order on International Women's Day, tweeted that the morning after pill was "part of women's reproductive rights, and not abortive," citing the World Health Organization.

Hundreds of women marched through Honduras' largest cities of Tegucigalpa and San Pedro Sula on Wednesday with demands ranging from expanded reproductive rights to ending femicides, or the killing of women due to their gender.

The year before Castro took office, Honduras' Congress passed a constitutional reform to protect anti-abortion laws, requiring a three-fourths vote to change them.

Women's and human rights groups filed more than a dozen appeals, which have so far been unsuccessful. Between 50,000 to 80,000 clandestine abortions occur each year in the country, according to a 2019 estimate from local rights groups.

Reporting by Gustavo Palencia; Writing by Kylie Madry; Editing by Jamie Freed

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