Access to contraception is still unequal in the European Union

According to a new report that was recently released by European Parliamentary Forum for Sexual and Reproductive Rights, (EPF), access to birth control in the European Union remains “very uneven” – and the situation is worsening. 

The report rates all countries in the EU to see how well they perform on access to contraception. The results show that the bloc is very divided. 

The EPF’s executive director, Neil Datta said: ‘There’s a polarisation between the east and west of Europe. Westen Europe has been improving. On the other side of the continent, unfortunately, the countries have not been progressing.”

‘Fifty-seven per cent of women in Europe use modern contraception, which shows an increase compared to last year’s edition. Thirty-five per cent of pregnancies in Europe are unintended and this represents the lowest rate in the world.’

Overall, eight countries were ranked as having “poor performance”, compared with twelve in last year’s report. The UK ranked the highest, with the health service providing a full range of free contraception and contraceptive services to all citizens, including under-16s. 

France was second, offering free contraception, including condoms for those under 25, in pharmacies, and providing emergency contraception without a prescription. 

Poland was ranked the lowest with “extremely poor performance”. In 2017, access to the morning-after pill was restricted and is now only available with a prescription. 

Out of 46 countries, 11 were downgraded, including Armenia, Turkey and Ukraine. Scores were lower in Eastern European countries in general, and the report blamed this on a variety of factors, including social prejudice, financial and economic barriers, and misinformation. 

The report also found that 89% of countries provided advice on birth control as part of their national health systems. Only 14 of the countries – or 30% – provided free services for over-25s and 19% of countries in the EU had good or exceptional government websites for advice on birth control. 

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