A new ‘Barometer’ report launched by IPPF EN on 24 March analyses how easily women in 16 EU countries can access modern contraceptives. It reveals that overall the situation in most countries has stagnated or worsened in recent years. IPPF EN calls on decision-makers at all levels to implement a comprehensive approach to contraceptive choice in Europe as a crucial precondition to ensuring the wellbeing of women and adolescent girls.
The Barometer highlights that women’s access to modern contraceptives varies significantly from one EU country to the next. Encouraging developments include some limited examples of improved sexuality education policies, more generous reimbursement schemes for contraceptives in France and improved medical guidelines on contraceptive service delivery in Poland and Sweden. But overall, these are overshadowed by growing obstacles to women getting the contraception they need. Access in countries such as The Netherlands that have a relatively strong track record is under threat from austerity measures and financial constraints. Meanwhile, in several countries where access is already more problematic, political and economic instability and lack of funding have prevented progress.
Sophie in ‘t Veld MEP (Netherlands, ALDE) strongly supported the IPPF EN report. She said that: “The inequalities identified in the Barometer are unacceptable, and underline that it is time the EU included sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR) in its public health policies. We have set harmonised standards for medicine, but we have not set standards for something as basic and important as access to contraceptives. Reproductive health must be taken out of the area of morality, and brought into the area of public health.”
The Barometer confirms that it is crucial to establish reproductive health as a long-term policy priority on the EU and national agendas in order to empower women in their personal, social and professional lives. IPPF EN believes that by increasing transparency and naming and shaming the EU countries with a poor performance, the report can contribute towards positive change. Its recommendations include: developing integrated and comprehensive national SRHR policy frameworks that would increase access to modern comprehensive contraceptive choice; strengthening comprehensive sexuality education in schools; and increasing awareness-raising campaigns including information on the full range of modern contraceptive methods.
Malin Björk MEP (Sweden, GUE/NGL) also backed the report, saying that: “Access to safe and modern contraception for women and girls is fundamental for deciding over one’s body and sexuality. Together with abortion rights and sexuality education, it is the very basis of SRHR and gender equality. In Europe today it seems to me that one of the big challenges is the issue of financing. To ensure that all women have access to contraception without discrimination, we need to ensure increased public financing and prioritising of SRHR more generally.”
Vicky Claeys, Regional Director of IPPF EN, added: “IPPF has committed globally to engaging with the pharmaceutical industry, including generic manufacturers, to demand affordable pricing strategies for contraceptives. IPPF EN believes that government funding should prioritise the affordability of contraceptives for vulnerable populations, and include a broad range of modern contraceptive methods in the government essential drug list and insurance coverage, again prioritising vulnerable groups.”
She also stressed that: “There is a major gap in research and data collection in Europe on SRHR, including access to modern contraception. This hampers evidence-based policy making that could improve the health and wellbeing of women and girls. We strongly urge EU decision-makers to boost investment in research and data collection.”
In response to the gaps highlighted by the Barometer, Sophie in ‘t Veld today addressed three Parliamentary questions to the European Commission, calling on it to clarify its position regarding the fundamental importance of contraceptive access in the EU, and explain what action it plans to take to ensure access for women in all Member States (see full EP questions in notes below).
The fundamental importance of access to contraception was reaffirmed earlier this month by a European Parliament report on gender equality drafted by MEP Marc Tarabella. This stated that women in the EU must have control over their SRHR, including access to contraception.
Notes to the editor:
- Link to Barometer report: http://www.ippfen.org/resources/barometer-2015-womens-access-modern-contraceptive-choice
- The EU countries covered by the report are: Bulgaria, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, The Netherlands, Poland, Romania, Spain, and Sweden. Information on participating national partners can be found in the report.
- The report’s findings are based on information about the national policy landscapes provided by national experts in each of the 16 countries, using a series of policy benchmarks that are key to ensuring access to modern contraceptives. The information was collected, analysed and reviewed between May and November 2014.
- The report is endorsed by the European Society of Contraception and Reproductive Health (ESC) and International Centre for Reproductive Health (ICRH).
- Written questions to the Commission tabled by Sophie in ‘t Veld on 24 March 2015:
“Access to Modern Contraceptives.
The 2015 Barometer report illustrates a stagnating or declining number of women and adolescent girls having access to modern contraceptives. The Barometer also highlights significant variance between Member States in women’s access to modern contraceptives.
1. Does the Commission consider access to modern contraceptives is a pre-condition for women’s independence and ability to fully and freely participate in all sectors of society?
2. Does the Commission agree that access to modern contraceptives for women is therefore essential for the implementation of Article 3 TEU on the promotion of gender equality, but also for the achievement of the goals of EU2020 and the strategy for gender equality?
3. What action has the Commission taken and does it intend to take to ensure that women in all EU Member States have full and equal access to safe and modern contraceptives?"
- EP resolution of 10 March 2015 on progress on equality between women and men in the EU in 2013, drafted by Marc Tarabella: http://www.europarl.europa.eu/sides/getDoc.do?type=TA&language=EN&reference=P8-TA-2015-0050
- About IPPF EN: The International Planned Parenthood Federation European Network is one of the six regions of the International Planned Parenthood Federation, an international NGO which was founded in 1952 and is the strongest global voice safeguarding sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR) for people everywhere. IPPF EN includes 39 membership-based national associations throughout Europe and Central Asia, as well as a Regional Office in Brussels.