Brazil is launching a major family planning programme, in a move likely to stoke simmering tensions between the state and the Catholic Church. The government will subsidise birth control pills for the poor, offering discounts of up to 90 percent. It also plans to significantly increase their availability.
President Lula da Silva has called for support from the scientific community and doctors. He wants the move to be seen not as a government programme but as a measure for Brazilian society. Health Minister Jose Temporao said the initiative was needed after efforts to reduce the mortality rate of mothers and newborn babies by 15 percent failed.
An advertising campaign is accompanying measures which include encouraging men to take advantage of free vasectomies at state hospitals. The move has been welcomed by women’s groups. But, just weeks after a papal visit to Brazil, it is all set to further strain relations with the Catholic Church which believes such initiatives simply promote promiscuity.