Correcting Misinformation on Emergency Contraception in Honduras

Honduras is one of the few remaining countries in the world that bans access to emergency contraception, even though it can be found for sale illegally in some pharmacies throughout the country. Couple that with the Church’s ardent preaching that emergency contraception is an abortion pill and it’s easy to understand why citizens are initially resistant to legalizing its access.

To fully understand how Hondurans think and talk about emergency contraception, Untold Research conducted a series of ten focus groups throughout the country. Groups were divided by gender, city, age, and income, each revealing interesting and valuable findings. This was followed by a nationally-representative survey (n=1,538).

One of our first objectives was to determine how Hondurans refer to emergency contraception. “Plan B” was one of the most popular terms used to talk about emergency contraception, but since this is a brand name, we wanted to find a brand-neutral term to avoid confusion. “The morning after pill,” while common, was problematic as some inquired if it was only effective if a woman took it in the morning. As a result, the phrase “the day after pill” is was used exclusively in the questionnaire.

As suspected three-quarters (73%) of Hondurans wrongly believe emergency contraception is currently legal. Initially, focus group participants were either confused or against legalizing emergency contraception, citing it as an abortive measure that often damages the woman, leaving her infertile or with other health complications. After sharing the truth about emergency contraception – (1) it can take between 24 and 72 hours for conception to occur after sex. The day after pill prevents pregnancy after sex but only before conception occurs. It cannot end a pregnancy; (2) the day after pill – like all contraceptives – does not affect a woman’s long-term health or fertility, nor does it affect the health of the baby if it taken after a woman becomes pregnant; and (3) because the day after pill is only effective before conception occurs, it is fully preventative, not abortive -- all focus group participants believe emergency contraception should be accessible to those who need it.

“I did not agree 100%, but now I do because before I thought it was something abortive rather than a measure of prevention.” - Man, Tegucigalpa -

To validate this finding, the survey replicated this process, inquiring about support for legalizing emergency contraception, exposing survey participants to educational messages about the day after pill, and, again, asking about their support for legalization. While the baseline is already very high -- with two-thirds (67%) of Hondurans agreeing the day after pill should be legal – exposure to the educational messages increase support by 13%.

Importantly, four out of five (82%) of those who initially reported being against making the day after pill legally available in Honduras agree it should be available in cases of rape. Overall, once Hondurans are given accurate information about how emergency contraception works, even the most conservative individuals believe it should be legal and available to those who need it.