Brazil Offers Free and Heavily Subsidized Birth-Control Pills and Vasectomy

Brazilian woman takes birth-control pill Brazilian President, Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, launched this Monday, May 28, the National Policy on Family Planning. Among the measures contemplated by the plan of action are cheap birth-control pills and the inclusion of free vasectomy among the surgical procedures that are covered by the National Policy on Elective Surgeries.

The program was created in 2004 to reduce the line of patients who need surgery for cataract, hernia and varicose veins.

Thanks to the new program, birth-control pills will be sold with up to 90% discount in pharmacies and drugstores authorized by the federal government's Popular Pharmacy Program. According to Brazilian Health Minister, José Gomes Temporão, a contraceptive pack will cost between R$ 0.30 and R$ 0.40 (about 15 to 20 cents).

The low price is only possible because the federal government will subsidize the price. Contraceptives will be offered initially in 3,500 locations. The target, according to Temporão, is to increase the number of locations to 10,000 till the end of the year. No prescription will be needed. Anyone with an Identity Card can get the pill.

The existing government program, which offers  free birth-control pills through the Unified Health System's health stations will increase the number of contraceptive pills it hands out every year from 20 million packs to 50 million. The offer of injectable ampoules will grow from 1.2 million to 4.3 million.

The government has budgeted 100 million reais (about US$ 50 million) for the program, which includes an education campaign on family planning. 

The Lula administration waited for the pope to leave – pope Benedictus XVI visited the country earlier this month – before  announcing the new measures. Pope Benedictus XVI urged Brazilian catholics to be chaste within and outside marriage and insisted that life should be respected from conception until death.

For Lula, the new measures will allow that poor families also can decide how many children they wish to have and at the time thew want them, as the middle class does it today.

"We have to make a policy for all, but protect those who are poorer and it is this part of the population that doesn't get in cash or in education what the middle class gets. When they merry they plan the children they want to have and when they want them."

According to the president the new family planning program is a compensation to these poorer families and represents "a quality leap on the role Brazilian state needs to carry out."

Lula asked the scientific community and doctors to support the new plan in order for it to have positive results. He wants the society to see this move as more than just a government effort: 

"If it seems that this is a program from the Brazilian society, then each one of you can feel like a health minister, can feel like a women's affair secretary, so that we can demand action not only from the government, but also from ourselves, daily."

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