France to offer free contraception to women under 25

Move aims to tackle decline in use of contraception ‘because it costs too much’, says health minster

Young French women will be offered free contraception from next year, the health minister has announced.

Olivier Véran said those under 25 would not be charged for medical appointments, tests, or other medical procedures related to birth control.

“This will cover hormonal contraception, biological tests that go with it, the prescription of contraception and all care related to this contraception up until the age of 25,” the minister said in an interview with France 2.

“There is a decline in the use of contraception among a certain number of young women and the main reason for this is financial. It costs too much. It is unacceptable that women cannot protect themselves, cannot have contraception if that’s their choice obviously, because they cannot afford it,” Véran added.

Asked why the government had chosen 25 as the cut-off age, Véran said it was because this corresponded to an age of more autonomy and because at 25 people were no longer covered by their parents’ complementary health insurance, called a mutuelle.

He said studies had shown this was also the age that many women were dropping contraception, not because they wanted to have children but “because it is expensive”.

The measure, which covers the pill, IUD devices and contraceptive implants, is expected to cost France’s health system, the Assurance Maladie, about €21m a year.

Contraception has been free in France for those aged between 15 and 18 since 2013 and for the under-15s since August 2020. This has led to a drop in the number of abortions.

The government announced last year that almost 1,000 girls aged between 12 and 14 become pregnant in France and 770 of those pregnancies result in an abortion. Since free contraception was offered to 15- to 18-year-olds, the number of abortions had dropped from 9.5 per 1,000 pregnancies in 2012 to six in 2018, according to official figures.

For women over 25, about 65% of the cost of contraception is reimbursed.

France’s health system requires most patients to pay upfront for appointments and prescriptions and then claim back all or part of the cost. For more complete reimbursement, patients must pay for a form of top-up insurance.


Kim Willsher in Paris

The GuardianTramp

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