France brings in free contraception for all women aged 18-25

Free birth control for all women under 25 will be available in France from Saturday, expanding a scheme targeting under-18s to ensure young women don't stop taking contraception because they cannot afford it.

France brings in free contraception for all women aged 18-25
A doctor holds an interuterine contraceptive device (IUD) before inserting it in a patient. Photo: Adek Berry/AFP

The scheme, which could benefit three million women, covers the pill, IUDs, contraceptive patches and other methods composed 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 teens. Britain makes several forms of contraception free to all.

France announced the extension to women under 25 in September, saying surveys showed a decline in the use of contraception mainly for financial reasons.

The move is part of a series of measures taken by President Emmanuel Macron’s government to boost women’s rights and alleviate youth poverty. The free provision is supported by women’s groups including the association En Avant Tous.

“Between 18 and 25-years-old, 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, an expert in gender issues, said there was more to be done.

“This measure in no way resolves the imbalance in the contraceptive burden between women and men,” the sociologist said.

In some developed countries, the free contraception won by women after decades of campaigning is coming under attack again from the religious right.

In the United States, former president Barack Obama’s signature health reform, known as Obamacare, gave most people with health insurance free access to birth control.

But his successor Donald Trump scrapped the measure, allowing employers to opt out of providing contraception coverage on religious grounds — a decision upheld by the Supreme Court in 2020.

Poland’s conservative government has also heavily restricted access to emergency contraception as part of its war on birth control.

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France launches hotline for elderly to get Covid vaccine at home

Older people living in France can now call a freephone number to arrange a Covid-19 vaccination at home, as the government bids to boost the number of over-80s who are protected against the virus.

An older woman in France receives a Covid-19 injection in her left arm from a doctor wearing a facemask
Older people can get their Covid vaccine at home. Photo: Thomas Coex / AFP

More than 500,000 over-80s have not received a single dose of the Covid-19 vaccine, according to official figures, prompting the government to offer the home vaccination service and freephone booking service.

The freephone helpline – 0800 730 957 – operates from 6am to 10pm seven days a week, and is intended for over-80s and their families to arrange a home visit from a nurse to administer the vaccine.

Call handlers can also answer questions and help alleviate any concerns that older people may have about having the injections.

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“These people are less likely to be followed by a GP and have difficulty travelling,” the Health Ministry said at the launch of the freephone line. “A family carer, home help or any other person willing to help the elderly person can call so that a vaccination at home, or an appointment with a GP or nurse can be proposed.”

Older age groups are less well protected from Covid-19 than younger people, despite being more likely to be hospitalised if they contract the illness. An estimated 10 percent of over-75s have not made an appointment.

As well as those who have yet to be vaccinated, it is hoped that the helpline and home-visit system will also increase the take-up of the booster shot among those already vaccinated.

So far 2.5 million of 6 million eligible people have received their booster.

On Tuesday Health Minister Olivier Véran – who as a doctor was vaccinated back in February – had his third dose, and urged those who are eligible to follow suit.

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Other systems that have been trialled to encourage the remaining cohort of the population to be vaccinated include transport vouchers to help people get to appointments, and letters inviting people to book one of a number of available vaccination slots.