Meghan Markle accused of alleged workplace harassment while living in Kensington Palace

The New York Times

A failure in contraceptive pills could have caused dozens of pregnancies in Chile

The public health system delivered, and then discreetly recalled, 276,890 boxes of potentially defective contraceptives. At least 140 women believe they got pregnant because of that mistake. It had to be a mistake, Melanie Riffo thought, staring in disbelief at her pregnancy test result: positive. She had taken her birth control pills without fail, Riffo said. She and her boyfriend were careful. Even doctors had told his partner that a childhood ailment could have rendered him infertile. “I didn’t understand anything,” Riffo, 20, said of the test that was done in September. “We had taken all the safeguards that you are supposed to take.” Across the Chilean territory, dozens of women like Riffo say they became pregnant last year after taking one of the 276,890 boxes of oral contraceptives that were provided by the public health system, and that were later collected discreetly due to a series of defects that diminished its effects. The Chilean government’s failure to warn women about the defects in the pills was a shocking oversight, leading to at least 140 unwanted pregnancies, according to reproductive rights activists. “We have never seen failures in such a systematic way and persist for as long as the case of Chile, with such serious consequences,” said Paula Ávila Guillén, executive director of the Center for Women’s Equality, which monitors reproductive rights in Latin America. . Riffo, who works as a cashier at a sushi restaurant in the city of Chillán, had not heard of the defective pills. She lives with her mother, who has cancer, and had only been with her partner for six months. The idea of ​​bringing a child into her life caused her to panic. “I do not finish a career, I have nothing stable, a home where I am safe,” he said about the baby. But having no legal option – in Chile abortion is allowed in limited cases, including rape or a danger to the mother’s life – she said she will have the child. The case of the defective pills, exacerbated by the superficial response of the Chilean government, has exposed the debate over women’s reproductive rights and access to abortion in a politically decisive year, when Chile will reform its political system. In April, voters will select the members of the assembly that will draft a new Constitution and in November they will vote for a new Congress and a president, replacing the conservative and unpopular Sebastián Piñera. “There is a person responsible here, the state of Chile, for having delivered defective contraceptives to the public health system,” said Claudia Mix, an opposition deputy. “It cannot be that the state washes its hands.” After Argentina legalized abortion in January, making it the largest country in Latin America to do so, Chilean legislators introduced a bill to decriminalize the procedure. Lawmakers supporting that initiative intend to push for greater access to abortions after a new president is elected in November. Birth control has become increasingly accessible in Latin America and countries with quality public health systems, such as Chile, provide it as part of routine care. The first signs of a problem with birth control pills emerged shortly after Chile imposed one of the strictest coronavirus shutdowns in the world in March last year. Representatives from Corporación Miles, a reproductive rights organization in Santiago, the capital, began calling public health workers across the country to determine whether quarantine measures and global supply chain hurdles were affecting availability. of contraceptives. They heard a rumor: that the birth control pills distributed by the government were defective, said Javiera Canales, Miles’ CEO. After Miles presented a formal investigation to government officials, the Health Ministry issued an order on August 24 to recall 139,160 boxes of birth control pills sold under the name Anulette CD, which are produced by Silesia and Andrómaco, two Chilean companies. belonging to Grünenthal, the German pharmaceutical company. The problem, according to the Ministry of Health and Silesia, was not the pills, but the boxes. Like many other oral contraceptive pills, Anulette CD packs include 21 active pills, which are yellow, and seven blue placebo pills, which must be taken during the time the user is menstruating. An unknown number of boxes included placebo pills in the active slots and vice versa, according to the alert. One week after the initial recall, the Ministry of Health ordered a second recall of 137,730 additional Anulette CD packages. The second alert specified that some of the packages had broken or missing pills. The recalls, issued amid the severe coronavirus outbreak and on a government website generally not consulted by the public, generated scant news coverage. The government did not hold a press conference or develop a plan to warn women who used the recalled contraceptives. Marlisett Guisel Rain Rain, 37, a mother of three, was taking the pills when she found out she was pregnant. The news came at a difficult time: she was separating from her husband and entering the third year of a degree in public administration. “The truth is that it was very difficult for me to accept the pregnancy,” said Rain Rain. “I was studying, I didn’t have a stable place to be,” Rain Rain said she never thought about having an abortion. “Out of fear, perhaps,” he said. But the unplanned pregnancy was a blow. “I don’t think anyone measures how difficult it is for a woman who is not ready to be a mother,” she said. “You must rearm completely.” The manufacturing company said in an emailed statement that the contraceptives it produced last year were effective, but a production failure caused some pills to “move during the sealing process,” resulting in empty cavities and lost tablets. . He also said that health workers distributing the pills could “visually identify any abnormalities before handing over” the boxes to users. The manufacturer said it had “not received any pregnancy reports” related to the recalled contraceptives and that modern pills are not foolproof: “Statistically three out of every 1000 women are expected to take a combined oral contraceptive, even under ideal circumstances. , get pregnant ”. The Chilean government announced that it had imposed a fine of approximately $ 92,000 on the manufacturer for “quality problems” identified in contraceptives. The companies remain the government’s main supplier of birth control pills. Mix, the opposition MP, said she and a group of colleagues had demanded a government report to find out exactly what went wrong. They have not received a reply yet. Miles, the reproductive rights group that identified the 140 women they believe became pregnant while taking defective contraception, plans to sue the government and the companies that make the pills in the coming weeks. “They definitely violated a woman’s right to choose when to have a child,” Canales said. Reproductive rights activists hope the case will fuel the movement to expand access to abortion in Chile, which had an absolute ban on terminating pregnancies until 2017. Regardless of how that debate unfolds, Riffo said the government has a responsibility to help her. her and other pregnant women who were receiving contraceptives in government centers. “That they support us with the education of the child, which is super expensive,” he said. As her abdomen has grown in recent weeks, Riffo said she has battled depression and anxiety that have been severe enough for her to be prescribed medication by doctors and she has been absent from work. The hardest part, she said, is dreading a moment that many expectant mothers dream of. “I don’t expect it as perhaps I would have liked to expect it,” he said. “And that still makes me feel super bad.” Ernesto Londoño is the head of the Brazil correspondent, based in Rio de Janeiro. He was previously a writer on the Editorial Board and, before joining The New York Times, he was a reporter for The Washington Post. @londonoe This article originally appeared in The New York Times. © 2021 The New York Times Company

Leave a Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.