Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Improving Access to Birth Control in Brazil

In the wake of the Pope's visit to Brazil (though the timing is unintentional), Brazil began to subsidize birth control pills to all of its citizens this week. Scott at LG&M has touched often upon how efforts to undo abortion rights in the U.S. are a direct assault based as much on class-based notions of gender as anything else. Now, certainly, while the issues of abortion in the U.S. and birth control in Brazil are very differnt, one issue that still has similarities is the access, and lack thereof, to reproductive rights among the poor. Just as abolishing Roe in the U.S. would only make abortion illegal to the poor who couldn't afford safe, secret abortions, so in Brazil birth control pills have been available mostly to the minority number of middle- and upper-class women right now. As the article correctly points out, the enactment of this government program is huge - it will make birth control accessible to all, regardless of income. This in itself is vital towards any effort to leveling the social field in Brazil.

Certainly, the program does not do much in the way of making abortion a legal option for women in Brazil (and, as would be the case if Roe were stricken down in the US, abortion is only illegal in Brazil to those who can't afford to have a safe, private procedure. Despite it's illegality in Brazil, thousands of women still die every year in clandestine abortions, reminding us once again that the illegality of abortion does not lead to its disappearance). Still, by making birth control affordable on the state-subsidized program, Brazil has taken a huge step in improving reproductive rights for women and for the poor.