Accepted paper:

Emergency contraception in Chile: framing a policy and challenging institutions

Author:

Carmen Sepulveda (Institute for the Americas)

Paper short abstract:

The debates that surrounded the legalisation and distribution of Emergency Contraception(EC) in Chile (2000-2010) are a good example of the use of both maternal and progressive arguments to advance a social policy. Feminism and the medical lobby competed to influence key state and judicial institutions.

Paper long abstract:

The debates behind the legalisation and distribution of Emergency Contraception (EC) in Chile (2000-2010) are a good example of the use of both maternal and progressive arguments to advance social policy. Feminism and the medical lobby competed to influence key state and judicial institutions. Due to the political strategies surrounding EC, the judiciary and in particular the Constitutional Tribunal became central arenas where conservative and progressive actors fought to influence the outcome of the EC policy.

These political and legal battles raise many questions regarding the role of institutions for women's rights, in particular in the context of a country that lives under the Constitution shaped by Pinochet's regime, and is yet to fully democratise its political institutions.

This paper tries to show the type of arguments and strategies used by different actors and institutions. It highlights the way in which the Constitutional Tribunal was used by conservative forces to exclude progressive civil society, and maintain a status quo on gender roles and reinforce maternalist approaches to access to sexual and reproductive health. This was due to the undemocratic nature of the constitutional tribunal. Civil society was invited to participate only in a limited manner. The judicial arena proved a great challenge to the way in which feminists and other social actors carried out their advocacy. The executive - led by Chile's first female president - also faced new challenges to support its EC policy and engage with civil society, proving once again the power of institutions for gendered social policies.

panel P21
Challenging gendered instrumentalism in Latin American social policy?