The last few weeks reported in the news cycle have felt like a back slide for women’s rights and equality around the world. From the turmoil taking place in Afghanistan to the passing of a new law in Texas that presents a near total-ban on abortions in the state, even on home soil we’ve found our government lacking when it comes to the understanding of women’s rights and issues surrounding our safety. The women’s safety summit left much to be desired; rather than focusing on real change, the government seemed to placate women with a tokenistic webinar, even going on to share messages received from survivors and victims with little regard for their privacy or trauma. But in what finally feels like some good news, France has declared that it will offer free birth control to all women up to the age of 25, starting next year.
Health Minister Olivier Veran announced the news and said the changes will come into effect on January 1st, 2022, including free medical visits about contraception. Under the new guidelines, all contraceptive methods will be free to women up to the age of 25, a noticeable shift from the previous age of 18 years old. Abortions in France are also free for all women and girls.
While the Health Minister did not explain whether such measures would apply to trans and non binary people, further clarifications will surely be announced in the coming weeks. Veran said young women are using contraception less than they used to and cited financial constraints as the primary reason. Though he didn’t cite specific data, France’s state health care system covers some birth control costs but not all of them.
“It’s intolerable that women aren’t able to protect themselves, aren’t able to use contraception if they make that choice, because it would cost too much,” said Veran.
The new measure will cost the government close to $25 million per year but for many women who can’t afford birth control, it certainly is a cause for celebration. Under the new measures, women will not only have free access to contraception, but also tests, or other medical procedures related to birth control. Included in the ruling is the pill, IUD devices, and contraceptive implants.
Contraceptive methods are free in Britain, while Spain offers free birth control pills and subsidises other forms of contraception. Several other European countries also offer free or subsidised contraception. Currently in Australia there is a growing push towards offering free birth control for women. The Guardian reports that one in four women in Australia have an unwanted pregnancy, with a third of this group requiring an abortion. When it comes to the reason why people who can fall pregnant don’t have access to reliable birth control, the primary issue is cost. Now more than ever, it’s becoming clear that birth control should be part of universal healthcare and should be provided for every single person who wants it.