France is the latest country in the European Union to offer free contraception.
Women under the age of 25 will be eligible to receive access to free birth control in the country starting on Jan. 1, 2022, the government announced on Thursday, according to the New York Times. The new measure aims to help ease the financial burden of preventing pregnancy.
The government is allocating about 21 million euros (almost $25 million) to cover several methods of contraception including IUDs, birth control pills, and contraceptive implants, as well as medical appointments, tests, or other medical procedures related to procuring birth control.
“It is unbearable that young women cannot protect themselves, cannot have contraception if they choose to do so because it is too expensive for them,” Olivier Véran, the French health minister, said on the news program Les 4 vérités.
The move is in response to the government noticing a decline in the use of contraceptives among a certain group of young women, Véran explained. Many young women who are no longer covered under their parents’ health care plan end up giving up contraception because of the expense. The government decided that at 25 years old, women tend to have more autonomy due to economic situation, social life, and income, he added.
Women between 15 and 18 have been able to obtain free contraception in France since 2013 and girls under 15 have had free access since 2020. Women in France were also able to claim partial or full reimbursement for contraceptives under private insurance plans before the announcement, but now any woman under 25 can receive reimbursement.
Reproductive health workers in France welcome the decision but would prefer that everyone could receive free access to contraception. Inclusive education about contraception and sex should accompany the measure, they added. There is also a concern that young women will not be able to take full advantage of the law because they won’t know they qualify for free contraception.
Easy access to contraception benefits everyone. It allows women to choose whether and when to conceive and is a major factor in the financial, physical, and emotional health of children.
Mothers who have unplanned pregnancies tend to give birth when they’re younger, do not finish their education, and earn less later in life. What's more, access to contraception can lower infant and maternal mortality rates and avoid high-risk births. Children whose births are unplanned are also more likely to experience health complications, be born into poverty, and struggle to reach their full potential as adults.
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