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France Expands Access to Abortion and Birth Control

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On April 1, 2013, France enacted a law providing free abortion services to all and anonymous birth control to French females between the ages of 15 and 18. The law to cover the entire cost of abortions and provide birth control was approved in 2012 as part of changes to the public social security reimbursement system.

The policy change is aimed to have a double effect of making abortion more accessible to France’s women as well as “reduce the number of unwanted pregnancies, and thus the number of abortions,” according to France’s international news site, France 24/7.

Before the law took place, the state only covered 70-80 percent of the cost of abortion services for women over the age of 18 and teenagers who wanted anonymity when going to their doctors for birth control had to pay for the consultation in cash, rather than claiming the money back.

Now, according to France 24/7, the state’s social security system will cover 100 percent of abortion costs in addition to allowing clinics to increase the charge of services by providing improved patient support and a 100 percent of contraception costs to teenagers between the ages of 15 and 18 in addition to complete anonymity.

The new changes to the former policy is good news for France’s youth, as well as for some who do not even live in France but across the globe. Natasha Verma, a student at University of Portland, said, “I think it’s a great policy change for France. In the big picture, this is a smart public health move because increasing the amount of birth control available could help decrease the amount of abortions needed. Contrary to what a lot of pro-life people would say, access to free and safe abortions does not increase their number. It is a commitment to women’s health.”

When asked about the possibility of long-term implications on France’s Socialist healthcare and social welfare system, she said, “I’m not familiar with their healthcare/social welfare system…but I think it will have long term benefits since it can reduce the rates of unwanted pregnancies. That in itself can save the government money, and people can have families when they want (i.e., after they’ve started a career and are financially stable).”

Fellow UP student Sophie Anderson agreed and said, “France previously had a sub-replacement fertility rate but I think they’re back up to about 2.0. Increasing women’s access to birth control obviously prevents unwanted pregnancies and the high costs associated with unwanted teen pregnancies like health care and assistance to teens that weren’t necessarily financially prepared to have children.”

Despite the good news, there are still limits to the new policy implementations. An article in the Huffington Post makes the point that abortion procedures will only be provided up until the 12th week of pregnancy and free contraception includes pills, implants, and sterilization, but excludes condoms.

Though the new law will cost French taxpayers 31.7 million euros in the first year, the long term costs and benefits and how they will affect the recently-elected Francois Hollande’s presidency have yet to be determined.


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