Free birth control for all women under 25 will be available in France from Saturday, expanding a program targeting those under 18 to ensure young women don’t stop taking contraception because they can’t afford it.
The device, which could benefit three million women, covers the pill, IUDs, contraceptive patches and other methods made up of steroid hormones.
Contraception for minors was already free in France. Several European countries, including Belgium, Germany, the Netherlands and Norway, make contraception free for adolescents.
Great Britain makes several forms of contraception free for everyone.
France announced the extension to women under 25 in September, saying surveys showed a drop in contraceptive use mainly for financial reasons.
The move is part of a series of measures taken by President Emmanuel Macron’s government to strengthen women’s rights and reduce youth poverty.
The free offer is supported by women’s groups including the association En Avant Tous.
“Between the ages of 18 and 25, women are very vulnerable because they lose a lot of rights compared to when they were minors and are very precarious economically,” spokeswoman Louise Delavier told AFP.
Leslie Fonquerne, a gender expert, said there was more to do.
“This measure in no way resolves the imbalance in the contraceptive load between women and men,” said the sociologist.
In some developed countries, free contraception won by women after decades of campaigning is again under attack from the religious right.
In the United States, former President Barack Obama’s health care reform known as Obamacare gave most people with health insurance free access to contraception.
But his successor Donald Trump dropped the measure, allowing employers to refuse to provide contraceptive coverage on religious grounds – a decision upheld by the Supreme Court in 2020.
The Polish conservative government has also severely restricted access to emergency contraception as part of its war on birth control.
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