Michelle Bachelet Proposes Lifting Chile’s Total Abortion Ban

Chilean President Michele Bachelet (Slate)

Chilean President Michele Bachelet (Slate)

Late last month, Chilean President Michelle Bachelet proposed lifting her country’s total abortion ban.

Chile is one of seven Latin American countries to completely ban abortion. Bachelet’s bill allows for the measure in case of rape, or if the mother and/or baby are at risk of dying during the pregnancy. The procedure would be allowed up until the 12th week (3rd month) of pregnancy, or until the 18th week for girls younger than 14 years of age. Girls ages 14 to 17 would need their parents’ permission for the procedure.

Abortion has been outlawed in Chile since 1989, imposed under former dictator Augusto Pinochet during his rule. Anyone breaking this law faces up to five years in jail. (Before the ban, abortions were allowed in extenuating circumstances.) Twelve bills decriminalizing the procedure have been proposed since 1991, but none (so far) have passed through the country’s Congress.

The measure would cut down the number of women taking chances on risky, “back-street” abortions detrimental to their health. A “Reuters” estimate puts the number of illegal abortions between 15K and 160K. (Since the numbers would have to be self-reported in this case, it’s difficult to get an accurate count.)

According to an interview in Spanish newspaper “El Pais,” Bachelet was originally planning on proposing the bill in late 2014.

Bachelet faces opposition from anti-abortion activists, and from UDI, the opposing political party. Culturally, the country is also very socially conservative, owing to a large Catholic stronghold. But despite this, recent public polls found that 70% of Chileans support the bill.

This isn’t the first time Bachelet has worked to reform family planning: In her first term as president (2006-2010), she made the morning-after pill free in government hospitals available to women ages 14 and older, with parental consent unneeded.

This is one time where I think having a politician make laws about women’s bodies could work: In addition to being a woman, Bachelet is also a registered pediatrician. #FemaleLeadersKnowBest

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Why Are Condoms So Expensive in Venezuela Right Now?

Condoms (Prevention Justice)

Condoms (Prevention Justice)

Happy Friday!

Apropos of National Condom Week: Would you pay $755 for a box of condoms?

That’s insane, right? But right now, sexually-active and contraception-conscious Venezuelans don’t have much of a choice. That’s how much a 36-pack of Trojan condoms is going for. With the exchange rate, it works out to be $20+ per condom. If you’re shopping around, a 24-back of Durex condoms is selling for $317, making it the (slightly) more economical choice of $13+ per condom. (For context, this is about $10 more than the country’s standard black market rate.)

This is really alarming when you consider that the country’s minimum monthly wage is $888.24.

The Venezuelan people literally cannot afford to have safe sex.

The reason behind these sky-high prices? Oil.

Venezuela exports a lot of the stuff, using it to bring in around 95% of foreign earnings. But oil prices have fallen dramatically recently (over 60% drop within the past seven months), leading to fewer earnings for the country. This, in turn, inhibits Venezuela’s ability to import other basic goods (such as chicken, milk and corn), since their money doesn’t stretch as far. The Bank of America Corporation estimates the the country will import 42% less in earnings than it did in 2012.

Condoms aren’t the only contraceptive that’s hard to come by within the country. Birth control pills are also in high demand, and are very hard to find right now.

According to “Bloomberg Business,” the shortages began in late December, when the Venezuelan government “tightened dollar disbursements amid sliding oil revenue.” The Venezuelan Pharmaceutical Federation offered the following observation:

No condoms were available in 10 eastern and central Caracas pharmacies visited in late January, compared with as many as 20 different kinds available at some locations in November, including Reckitt Benckiser Group plc’s Durex and Church & Dwight Co.’s Trojan brands.

Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro was attempting to fix this problem before it started: Last June, he announced that the government was building a condom factory to meet the country’s demand. But since then, customers disliked the quality of the condoms, and demand often outpaced supply.

Another factor in this saga is Venezuela’s own sexual health stats. According to a 2012 World Bank study, the country has the fifth-highest number of teen pregnancies out of the 21 Latin America countries. (This averages out to be 88+ live births for women ages 15-19 for every 1K women.) It also has the fourth-highest number of people living with AIDS on the continent.

If this condom (and birth control) shortage continues, it’ll impact Venezuela’s teen pregnancy and AIDS population for the worse. As prices rise, people will become more inclined to completely forgo any birth control method, and the government might not be able to support the overwhelming resulting birth rate. Let’s hope a solution arrives before these things come to pass.

I’m just thankful condoms are not only cheaper than a child, but also cheaper than a month’s rent.

Brazil Will Pass Out Free Condoms During Carnival

Mardi Gras mask and beads (123 RF)

Mardi Gras mask and beads (123 RF)

Happy Mardi Gras! Known in English as Fat Tuesday (and just in time for National Condom Week), today celebrates casting off repression, upending social norms and indulging in vices before the Christian season of Lent begins (when enjoying all earthly pleasures ceases for 40 days). Much like Halloween, masks and costumes, dancing and lust in the air figure prominently.

Brazil has made Carnival an international destination, and it’s legendary for a reason. Several cities throw parades, led by various samba schools. Many foreigners fly in for the multi-day party (spanning the Friday before to Ash Wednesday at noon), making Carnival the country’s biggest tourism booster.

Naturally, when the shackles of convention are thrown aside, a lot more spontaneous sex occurs (because when in Rio…). But the Brazilian government is always prepared for this: they give out free condoms.

This year, they’ll hand out 70M condoms throughout the country. They’ve done this for years, handing out 65M in 2009, 55M in 2010, 89M in 2011, 3M in 2012, 73M in 2013 and 104M in 2014.

For visual learners, here’s a decade-long progression in line-graph form:

Brazil's Condom Distribution during Carnival, 2005-2015

Brazil’s Condom Distribution during Carnival, 2005-2015

As you can see, the number of condoms distributed during Carnival has tended to baseline around 70-75M in recent years (aside from 2012, whose 3M looks incorrect, to say the least).

Last year, the Brazilian government estimated that 2M+ people were on the streets at any given time during Carnival. Surely attendees can find at least one person to hook up with during the popular “blocos” (street-wide parties).