After nine years of resistance, the Japanese Health Ministry has finally conceded that there is no reason to withhold approval for contraceptive pills.
After the male impotency drug Viagra was approved for use in only 6 months, Japanese feminists and members of the news media questioned the Health Ministry's decision. Dr. Kunio Kitamura, director of the Japan Family Planning Association in Tokyo, said, "If there's any drug that should be approved, no questions asked, it's the pill."
Health officials have made all sorts of excuses for the resistance, claiming that access to oral contraceptives will destroy Japan's morals. Others have cited fears that the Pill's hormones will cause environmental harm, or suggest that access to oral contraceptives will discourage couples from using condoms, encouraging the spread of sexually transmitted diseases.
Finally, a Health Ministry committee has announced that it expects to approve the Pill for use in Japan this June, after appropriate use guidelines have been drafted for patients and doctors. Even after the committee okays the drug, the Health Ministry must also grant its approval. This decision will likely be announced within a month of the committee's decision.