Just weeks after Pope Benedict spoke against government sponsored birth control measures; Brazil announced on Monday that they will subsidize birth control to reduce cost for the poor. The announcement laid out a plan to discount birth control up to 90% at 3,500 government authorized pharmacies across the country as a means to decrease unwanted pregnancies.
Brazil has programs in place to hand out free condoms and birth control at pharmacies. However, the poor of the country do not have access to these pharmacies. By subsidizing the pills, the government is offering them at significantly reduced prices, about 20 cents in US dollars. Current retail price for the birth control ranges from $2.56 to $25.60. The number of stores offering the pills is intended to reach 10,000 by the end of the year. The government hopes to distribute 50 million supplies of pill each year, an increase from the current 20 million distributed.
The program could decrease the amount of illegal abortions performed in Brazil as a result of unwanted pregnancies. About 4,000 women die each year from the illegal procedures making illegal abortions the fourth leading cause of maternal death in the country. Other methods to reduce unwanted pregnancies include increasing the amount of free vasectomies performed.
Some women’s advocates worry that the government will not follow through with this new program as there is a lack of political will. However, Brazilian president Lula da Silva favors a national debate on the issue of abortion laws and on birth control. Congress is also expected to take up the issue in the family planning policy finding ways for women to be given the ability to decide.
The debate on birth control is also present in Argentina where recently a judge in Ushuaia prevented poor women and adolescents to have access to emergency contraceptive pills. Opponents of the judge’s actions argue that preventing free access to the pills, while pharmacies sell the products, discriminates against poor women and adolescents. This decision reinforced the economic constraints women face in making choices regarding their own health.
For more information, see: