The Brazilian government has announced a 90 percent reduction in the price of contraceptives in a bid to stop clandestine abortions and the rising number of deaths caused by them.
The discounted birth control pills will be sold at 3,500 "people's pharmacies," where the government offers subsidized medicines.
AdvertisementThe new programme comes amid a controversy between the Catholic Church and Lula's government over abortion.
During his recent visit to Brazil, Pope Benedict XVI attacked the suggestion of President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva and his health minister, Jose Gomes Temporao, to launch a debate on the legalization of abortion under the argument that it is a public health question.
Religious leaders also accused the government of "fostering promiscuity" with their sex education programme and the free distribution of condoms in the schools.
According to a study published last week by the health ministry, last year 230,523 women were admitted to public hospitals after suffering complications from illegal abortions.
Abortion is allowed in Brazil only in cases of rape, risk of the mother's death or severe deformation of the fetus, and even in those cases an abortion must be authorized by the courts.