Morning-after pills will be included in Brazil's newly expanded birth control program, a health official announced Monday. Last month, President Luiz Inacio Lula de Silva's announced that the government will also provide low-priced birth control pills at drug stores, in order to reduce the rate of unwanted pregnancies and illegal abortions. Abortion is only legal in Brazil in cases of rape or when the woman's life is in danger.
While Brazil annually hands out 254 million free condoms on the streets and birth control pills at government pharmacies, many of the poor do not go to these pharmacies. The new program will set the price for a year's supply of birth control pills at $2.40 at private drugstores. Brazil, the world’s largest Roman Catholic nation, received harsh criticism of the program from Pope Benedict XVI during his visit in May. Silva, however, said the program will give poor Brazilians "the same right that the wealthy have to plan the number of children they want," according to the Associated Press.
Women's groups hope the program could lead to future changes to Brazil's abortion laws. Women's rights groups estimate 800,000 illegal abortions occur in Brazil each year, and about 4,000 women die from the procedure yearly.