The Brazilian city of Recife is to distribute morning-after pills to women during carnival after public prosecutors on Tuesday rejected a Catholic Church lawsuit claiming the initiative promoted sex and provided "abortions."
"The pill has no abortive effect, as the archdiocese claims, and its distribution is in no way an incentive to have sex," the prosecutor who made the decision, Ivana Botelho, told AFP.
On top of its legal defeat, the church has come under fire from the Brazilian government for attempting to sway public health policy.
"The (Recife) mayor's office is right and the church is wrong, again," Health Minister Jose Gomes Temporao said Sunday, as the issue was coming to a head.
"The morning-after pill is used with medical guidance and is a matter of public health, not religion," he said, adding that he believed the church was alienating youths with its stance.
The archiocese for Recife, one of the Brazilian cities most famous for its wild carnival celebrations alongside Rio de Janeiro and Salvador, on Monday lodged its suit with the public prosecutor's office.
It was seeking to block the distribution of the contraceptive during this year's pre-Lenten carnival, which begins on Friday and runs to Tuesday of next week.
The verdict allows Recife officials to go ahead and hand out the pills from stationary and mobile health posts which will also provide medical consultations.
The municipality says its aim is to "guarantee the sexual and reproductive rights of women who have been victims of sexual violence or who have had a failure of contraceptive methods."
Morning-after pills must be used within 72 hours of unprotected sexual intercourse. They work by blocking fertilization.
According to the newspaper Pernambuco, the archbishop at the center of the storm, Jose Cardoso Sobrinho, is not prepared to back down on the issue, and had threatened excommunication to any church-goers who use the pill.