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Free Contraceptives in France? What does that mean for the U.S.?

In contrast to the current state of restrictive abortion laws in the U.S., France has announced that it will offer free contraceptives for all women up to the age of 25 starting next year in order to reduce the financial costs set on women to prevent pregnancy.

According to the New York Times, the government has set aside 21 million Euros, or $25 million US dollars, to reimburse women for all types of contraceptives, including IUDs and birth control pills.

In my opinion, this is a great effort to reduce the burden on women to practice safe sex. Sadly, most of the responsibility for preventing pregnancy does fall on the woman’s lap because most contraceptives on the market right now are geared toward controlling a woman’s ovulation cycle.

I’ve always said it’d be easier to unload a gun rather than wearing a bulletproof vest, but according to our society, it just seems out of question to regulate a man’s reproductive system. I do want to applaud these efforts, which will make safe sex easier to access for all young women in France by taking away the financial burden. This could also reduce teen pregnancies by making it easier for this population to access contraceptives to prevent unwanted pregnancies for those who are scared to ask their parents. In addition, because birth control pills nowadays are used for many more reasons other than contraception such as acne control, regulating period cycles or reducing pain and discomfort from period pains, this act will make it easier for young women to access the pill without their parents or guardians restricting their access because they assume it is being used for sex. Overall, it reduces the stigma against young women looking to use contraceptives or going on the pill for other reasons.

According to this NPR article, France also offers free abortions, and other European countries offer similar services, such as Spain offering free birth control pills and subsidizing other forms of contraception and Britain offering free contraceptive methods. Mexico joined this fight as it recently decriminalized abortion.

These acts are in sharp contrast to the restrictive abortion laws popping up in America. The first one being the Texas law which allows “private citizens to sue anyone ‘aiding or abetting’ an abortion procedure, including a taxi driver who unknowingly drops a patient off at a clinic, even years after the abortion took place — and seek at least $10,000 in damages.” This law has inspired a recent Florida Heartbeat Act that allows for the same action to take place, as well as it prevents “physicians from performing abortions if there is a ‘detectable fetal heartbeat’, effectively banning abortions after about six weeks into pregnancy before many people even know they are pregnant.”

These restrictive acts limit women’s control over their bodies and take away their reproductive rights. They increase the burden on women because they are left with the responsibility of taking care of an unplanned child that requires financial, mental and physical ability which someone with an unintended pregnancy may not have. Lawmakers are worried about the current state of an unborn child but refuse to acknowledge the wellbeing and stability after birth that may be absent in unplanned pregnancies. On the other hand, the laws passed in these European countries acknowledge a woman’s reproductive rights by increasing access to contraceptives, which in turn can decrease the rate of abortions.

According to this research article by John Cleland, “70% of unintended pregnancies are due to non-use of contraception,” which can be due to “lack of knowledge, social disapproval, fear of side effects and perceived low risk of conceiving.”

This evidence shows that there could be another solution to decreasing abortions without attacking reproductive rights. The factors that seem to lead to a lower use of contraception are limited access to contraceptives, social stigmas and a lack of sex education. These boundaries can be tackled head on by increasing access to free contraceptives and improving or implementing sex education in schools, so our society is better prepared when it comes to safe sex. The combination of these two actions can work toward getting rid of the social disapproval of contraceptives and sex by normalizing the conversation of reproductive rights and sex. For this reason, it is noteworthy that France is providing free contraceptives because it is normalizing the conversation and possibly reducing the rate of abortions.

Claudia is a third year Applied Physiology and Kinesiology major at the University of Florida. She's from Boca Raton, FL, but is a proud latina with roots in Mexico. She is a passionate woman looking to use her voice to inform readers on a wide range of topics from social disparities to personal college experiences from the perspective of a woman. When she isn't in class or volunteering, you can probably find her rollerblading somewhere outside or eating Ben & Jerry's ice cream while binge watching Friends for the 100th time. With her experience in writing for Her Campus UFL, Claudia hopes to one day bring this skill into her dream career as a physician to spread awareness about health disparities she encounters in the clinic.
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