Brazilian president Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva announced yesterday his government’s plan to subsidize the price of birth control pills. A months supply of pills will cost the equivalent of 20 American cents at private drug stores. Women should be able to purchase the pills at 10,000 pharmacies by the end of the year. Da Silva said the plan will allow poor Brazilians “the same right that the wealthy have to plan the number of children they want,” according to the Associated Press. The government’s goal to increase the number of pills taken yearly from 20 million to 50 million is part of an initiative to reduce unwanted pregnancies and maternal deaths.
Brazil already dispenses free birth control pills and condoms through hospitals, clinics, and government-run pharmacies, for which it draws praise from the United Nations but sharp criticism from the Catholic Church. During a visit to the country earlier this month, Pope Benedict XVI said that contraception presents a threat to “the future of the peoples” in Latin America, according to the AP.
Abortion is illegal in Brazil except in limited circumstances, but in an effort to promote family planning, Da Silva and Health Minister Jose Temporao would like to open a national debate about loosening restrictions on the procedure. According to Reuters, Temporao said, “This issue has to be inserted into the widest family planning policy… The government will get the issue rolling so that the women can decide.”