- - -

Contraception

One of our main priorities is to ensure universal access to, and informed use of effective contraception. Millions of people lack the knowledge and information to determine when or whether they have children, and they are unable to protect themselves against sexually transmitted infections (STIs).

Articles by Contraception

vaska--smiling--white--bg.jpg
08 April 2022

Working with the Roma community and local actors for reproductive freedom

In the Balkans, IPPF members are working hand-in-hand with diverse networks of actors from within and around Roma communities. This work was shaped as the My Body, My Rights project. Our common goal is to strengthen girls’ lifelong reproductive freedom and tackle some of the deep-rooted, systemic obstacles that prevent people - especially women and youth - from living safer and healthier lives. How? By increasing access to care, creating supporting contexts for choice and advocating for investment. Our work is community-driven and based on fostering local partnerships. At the heart of this collective action are Roma volunteers, girls and boys, health mediators and local NGOs, leading grassroots change and advocating for their own unique communities. Doctors, community nurses and teachers are working with them to help deliver lasting impact. And some decision-makers are stepping up and beginning to make much-needed investments in more equitable access to reproductive healthcare. We are proud to share highlights of our work, recommendations to decision-makers and resources for further reading. Explore our new microsite!   

family planning
27 January 2022

European donors increase support to sexual and reproductive health and rights worldwide

The period 2020-2021 was one of the most challenging in recent memory. COVID-19’s fierce sweep across the world has been demanding a bold response that simultaneously safeguards the health, social and economic gains achieved to date. The COVID-19 pandemic has laid bare the critical global challenges that cannot be tackled in silos by individual countries. Foreseeing the severe effects of the pandemic in developing contexts, movements have been calling for international solidarity and equality, including the centrality of SRHR therein. European governments have been responding to, joining and even leading these calls. This report analyses 2020 funding data and 2021 political stances adopted by twelve European governments and the EU institutions. As such, it assesses changes in SRH/FP funding pre- and post-pandemic for those specific donors and for the period at stake only - with other possible trends being observable only in the longer run. It also assesses, for the first time, European support to the broader SRHR agenda. This report shows that, instead of plunging contributions to SRH/FP in their international cooperation, European governments have in fact increased support in 2020: data collected indicates donors contributed 2.614 billion Euros to SRHR, this includes 1.447 billion Euros disbursed to SRH/FP, reaching a new maximum. 12 out of the 13 European donors under review either increased or maintained funding compared to the previous year. But even though official development assistance (ODA) has not fallen so far, it is important that European governments maintain and scale up their commitments. European donors continue to be vocal about the importance of SRHR in international development.  2021 introduced another ground-breaking platform to reinstate support to the SRHR agenda: the Generation Equality Forum, which aimed to advance the implementation of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action. European donors pledged new support to SRHR in that context, but it remains to be seen how central this agenda will remain in development budgets.   For more detailed data and analysis, read the full report ‘European Donor Support to Sexual & Reproductive Health & Family Planning – With a Spotlight on SRHR. Trends Analysis 2020-21’  Read our factsheet summarizing the findings of the report.  Read the country and EU factsheets. The data can also be further explored on the online data dashboard here.

vaska--smiling--with--bg.jpg
20 September 2021

My friends think I’m crazy, because I only have one child. But I know I can decide when to have another. Vaska's Story

“I got married quite early, when I was 17. A year and a half later I got pregnant and had a baby girl. Now she is 18 months old. My husband started a job in the city in a company which is popular among Roma people, and I stayed home to look after our child.  Last year I met Valya, the health mediator. She told me they organize meetings, and she invited me to take part in a women’s group. Initially I didn’t know what we would do, but it was interesting as there were other women like me. During these meetings we spoke very often about contraception in general, and especially about IUDs. The women shared what they had heard and what they knew about them. It was strange, but most of them said that IUDs harm women’s health. I also understood that the men are worried about their wives’ health and that that’s why they don’t approve of contraception. I heard women say other things as well, like you can still get pregnant with an IUD, that you may gain weight, that IUDs move in the body, and so on and so forth.  One day, during a meeting, we spoke again about contraception, and more precisely, what we thought was a good family size. People had different views. I personally think that it is not so much about the number of children as it is about being able to make sure you have everything you need - clothes, food, the possibility to educate them. Everyone should take these issues into consideration before having children.  I thought more often about myself and my family. We didn’t have high incomes and we could barely afford our bills. Our daughter was a baby and it was challenge to provide for her. My husband and I started to talk about it, and I started to think about getting an IUD. That’s why six months ago I decided to have one fitted, and I feel fine. It isn’t painful and I haven’t gained weight. My friends think I’m crazy, because I only have one child. But I know that I’ll be able to decide when to have another one.” When vulnerable communities, volunteers and professionals unite for reproductive freedom, they are a powerful force for change. Watch Vaska’s story and others in our short film about the amazing work our members in Bulgaria, Romania and Serbia are doing to support the lifelong reproductive health and safety of Roma girls, women and young people.

women-in-community--with--bg (1).jpg
27 September 2021

My Body, My Rights - short film

When vulnerable communities, volunteers and professionals unite for reproductive freedom, they are a powerful force for change. Our short film features five stories that show how IPPF members in Bulgaria, Romania and Serbia are supporting the lifelong reproductive health and safety of Roma girls, women and young people, working on the multiple fronts necessary to improve access and uptake of quality family planning and maternal health care. Learn more about the My Body, My Rights project here. 

guillaume-perigois-wVqC9dty3VQ-unsplash (1).jpg
24 June 2021

European Parliament adopts landmark position on sexual and reproductive rights

The European Parliament voted today in favour of a landmark report presented by Croatian MEP Predrag Fred Matić on “the situation of sexual and reproductive health and rights in the EU”. While the European Parliament has repeatedly expressed concerns over the lack of full realisation of, and attacks against women’s rights, gender equality and sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR), this report is the first of its kind in almost 10 years to give such a degree of political importance to SRHR at EU level. The report addresses the full range of SRHR and highlights the importance of accessing all essential SRH services, including comprehensive sexuality education, contraception, abortion, maternal health and fertility services; and of preventing and addressing sexual and gender-based violence. The vote sends a strong signal that MEPs are fully committed to protect and promote SRHR in the EU at a time when human rights in sexuality and reproduction are increasingly challenged by illiberal leaders, even within the EU, and as the global community makes inspirational commitments to advance SRHR in the Generation Equality Forum.  Neil Datta, Secretary for the European Parliamentary Forum for Sexual and Reproductive Rights, said, “Today, the European Parliament assumed its leadership role in strongly upholding the fundamental rights of all Europeans despite deliberate campaigning to incite fear and block the report. Common sense, human rights and values prevailed and MEPs were able to stand up for education and health over ignorance and religious ideology. As awareness about anti-gender movements increases, we can safeguard women’s rights, SRHR and gender equality more effectively”.   "The adoption of the report today is a great achievement for the European Parliament and those involved in the negotiations - although protecting the health and rights of everyone should not be controversial. We celebrate the EU’s reinforced commitment to promoting SRHR both within and outside the EU. The EU should now take concrete steps to make the promotion of SRHR for all a priority, both in its internal and external action.” Lisa Goerlitz, Head of Brussels Office, Deutsche Stiftung Weltbevölkerung (DSW). “We now look to the Member States and the European Commission to take the report’s recommendations forward and deliver on sexual and reproductive safety, care and freedom for all. We want to see serious advances on access to sexual and reproductive care as part of a society free from sexism and discrimination,” says Caroline Hickson, Regional Director of the International Planned Parenthood Federation European Network (IPPF EN).  

EU
11 May 2021

A vote for women's health, safety and freedom in the EU (statement)

On the tenth anniversary of the Istanbul Convention - the most far-reaching international legal instrument to set out binding obligations to prevent and combat violence against women - the European Parliament Women’s Rights and Gender Equality Committee (FEMM) voted today in favour of the report presented by MEP Predrag Fred Matić on “the situation of sexual and reproductive health and rights in the EU” by 27 votes in favour. This resolution is the first European Parliament Report specifically dedicated to SRHR in almost 10 years. “The report provides an in-depth analysis of SRHR, recognising that SRHR is not only a human rights issue; it is also intrinsically linked with gender equality, women’s empowerment and combating gender-based violence. The report also provides a way forward on how the EU can deliver on reproductive freedom, safety and dignity for all”. – Caroline Hickson, Regional Director of the International Planned Parenthood Federation European Network (IPPF EN).  The report gives a high level of political importance to SRHR at EU level at a crucial time, with challenges in accessing the whole range of SRHR being compounded by COVID-19 measures and some Member States backsliding on women’s rights, gender equality and SRHR across Europe and globally.  “SRHR are at the core of several EU competency areas, including health, gender equality and non-discrimination, combating gender-based violence, fundamental rights and the rule of law. The EU is a longstanding SRHR supporter in its development and human rights policies and needs to safeguard SRHR both within and outside the EU for everyone.” – Cécile Vernant, Head of EU Advocacy at Deutsche Stiftung Weltbevölkerung (DSW). The Report has been tabled for a plenary vote at the European Parliament in June. EPF Secretary Neil Datta added: “Europe has a responsibility to take up a global leadership role on these issues, and this vote today is an important first step. It is crucial that we continue to work vocally in support of women’s rights, reproductive freedom and gender equality, and a positive result in the plenary will send a strong signal that MEPs are fully committed to protect and promote SRHR in the EU.”  

Woman looks out of window
12 October 2020

Italy, France and Spain – positive steps on access to contraceptive and abortion care

IPPF EN is very encouraged by a series of positive developments in recent days which show European decision-makers and public bodies supporting the reproductive freedom and safety of women and girls, and rejecting harmful obstacles to care. At a time when other countries in Europe are pursuing retrogressive political agendas, we are heartened by these examples of progressive values shaping the legal frameworks which determine how women and girls access and experience care. Emergency contraception: Italy removes prescription hurdle for minors needing contraceptive care On 8 October, Italy’s national Medicines Agency (Aifa) announced new rules for under-18s needing to access emergency contraception. Adolescent girls will now be able to access this essential care over-the-counter in pharmacies without being required to have a prescription. The Aifa described this step forward as a “turning point for teenagers’ physical and mental health”, and “an ethical measure which will help avoid difficult situations in which girls usually bear the burden by themselves.” The organisation also announced the creation of a much-needed new website to provide information about contraception. (article in La Repubblica here) French Parliament paves the way for boosting women’s access to abortion care Also on 8 October, France’s National Assembly discussed a bill to strengthen the right to abortion. New measures approved in this first reading would include the extension of the legal deadline for access to abortion from 12 to 14 weeks of pregnancy, the possibility for midwives to carry out surgical abortions up to the 10th week, and the removal of the clause that enables care providers to deny women care based on their own personal beliefs. Our French member Le Planning Familial, which has regularly denounced the difficulties that women face in accessing abortion care, strongly supports these proposed new measures. LPF described them as a first step towards aligning with the European countries that have the most women-centred abortion legislation, and doing away with unnecessary hurdles to care: “This first reading of the law is a real step forward for women’s right to control their bodies. Thousands of French women go abroad to have abortions every year. This decision to extend the time limits makes it possible to fight against social inequalities, since not all women can access care abroad, and against territorial inequalities, because all women in Europe should have the same right to safety and reproductive freedom.” (Full statement in French from Le Planning Familial here) The next step will be a vote on the reform in the French Senate. Abortion care: Spain plans to remove 2015 parental consent obstacle for 16 and 17-year-olds Spain’s government has announced its intention to reform the current abortion law to remove a hurdle introduced in 2015 by the ruling Conservative government requiring 16 and 17-year olds to seek parental consent before being able to access abortion care. Equality Minister Irene Montero also announced plans to promote relationships and sexuality education, given its role in protecting young people against the risk of gender-based violence, and to boost contraceptive access and choice. In a statement, our Spanish member the FPFE welcomed the government’s announcement, and hoped that it would be swiftly followed up with action to turn the commitments into reality, reiterating that the current parental consent requirement is a threat to young women's health, safety and autonomy.    On contraceptive care, they noted that the proposal to guarantee “the best possible access to contraception with its “most innovative and effective” forms… would bring the Spanish state closer to the level of access… in other European countries.” The FPFE also called for the announcement to “be accompanied by measures that guarantee public funding of all contraceptive methods…, to end the inequalities between autonomous communities, and of measures that also entail access for all women… regardless of their administrative situation.” (Full FPFE statement here; BBC article here)

Young woman and contraceptive methods
26 September 2020

Making contraceptive freedom a reality in vulnerable communities

Today is World Contraception Day – a day for raising awareness about contraceptive care. It might seem surprising that we still need to raise awareness - isn’t everyone in Europe using modern contraception nowadays? Unfortunately, the answer is no. In Romania, Bulgaria and Serbia, for example, less than half of women use a modern method. Many women and girls from the poorest and most socially excluded communities in the Balkans rely on withdrawal. Contraceptive use is hugely influenced by myths and misinformation about hormonal contraception. This can be tackled by raising awareness and providing accurate information, which is exactly what we are doing in Roma communities in these countries. With support from the communities, our local partners are training and building essential life skills among Roma women and men to enable them to act as points of contact for their friends, children, neighbours and family. And this approach is bearing fruit. Last year, I visited Kosharnik, a neighbourhood in the city of Montana in the north of Bulgaria, where 6000 Roma have settled. 600 of them live in extreme poverty, without running water or electricity. They form a ‘ghetto within the ghetto’. Many have no income and struggle to survive. Contraception is a life-changer for women living in this neighbourhood. One young woman living here told us that local sessions organised by a health mediator from the community had convinced her of the advantages of contraceptive care. She had married at 17 and now, three years and one child later, had decided after careful consideration with her husband what was right for her: “One day, we spoke again.. about what is a good number of children in a family... I thought more about me and my family. We didn’t have a high income and could barely pay our bills. Our daughter was a baby and it was challenge to look after her. With my husband we started to discuss it, and I started to think about getting an IUD... That’s how six months ago I decided to have one fitted… My friends told me I’m crazy, they said I only have one child. But I know that I can decide myself when to have another, and that I’ll do so consciously.” Raising awareness is just part of the solution. Roma women and girls face many more hurdles to get the family planning services they need. Many are uninsured, which makes contraceptive care costly, so we support them to get health insurance. Often, it takes hours to reach healthcare services on public transport, so most women can’t even make the trip. That is why our Bulgarian partner collaborates with a doctor who visits the nearby community health center to provide contraceptive care free-of-charge. We encourage and even push doctors to get out of their consultation rooms and provide information, counselling and even services in the communities. This simple intervention boosts access for women and girls, but crucially also opens the eyes of the doctors, helping to change their perceptions and attitudes towards Roma people. In the words of one Serbian doctor: “This field work teaches me that we have to act like a human, to take the time to listen, ask and help”. Social norms and expectations are another reason that the uptake of contraceptive care is very low. Why would a young girl ask for contraception if she’s not even supposed to have sex before marriage? Or why would a teenage couple use contraception if they just got married and are expected to start a family as soon as possible ? Why would a man propose to his wife to use a condom – is he cheating on her? Young people and their communities need to talk - not just about contraception, but about sex, sexuality, relationships, gender, consent, and more! That’s why we support teachers, local nurses, health mediators and young people to build these essential life skills in their children and peers. Young people and children love the relationships and sexuality education sessions and even the adults we have trained get excited seeing the children’s enthusiasm. A community nurse in Romania told us: “This has helped us to see that more can be done... You realise that for a young girl of 11 or a young boy of 12, questions like "how to use a condom" or "what happens when you have sex with a girl on her period", are clearly taboo, and they have no one to talk to about these things because in their families it’s seen as shameful.... But we're trying to move forward and explain that it’s not bad to talk about these things..." Our work in the Balkans with some of Europe’s most vulnerable communities brings home just how much contraceptive care still changes and saves lives in Europe. It also highlights that making contraceptive freedom a reality for everyone requires civil society, decision-makers and care providers to unite as a team, with and for local communities. Above all, political commitment is needed to ensure all women can live safe and dignified reproductive lives. --- Marieka Vandewiele is a Senior Programme Advisor at IPPF EN's Regional Office.  You can read more about this work here.

BecauseSheCounts campaign
04 September 2020

Because She Counts

Our #BecauseSheCounts social media campaign asks decision-makers to put universal health care, human rights and equality at the core of all public policy and funding decision, amid the pandemic and always. To join our campaign, share our #BecauseSheCounts messages and visuals and tag us @C2030Europe! Ask your governments to continue to prove that solidarity goes beyond borders and should not be limited to European Union countries. Find our social media campaign package here.

Contraception IPPF
04 June 2020

Government caught between science and ideology on contraceptives scheme

The Lithuanian Health Minister, Aurelijus Veryga, has halted a new contraceptive reimbursement scheme following interference by religious NGOs and politicians. The Minister signed his approval of the scheme in April following a recommendation by the Lithuanian Society of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists and the State Commission on Drugs and Medicine Reimbursement, but objections by groups opposed to marriage equality and ratification of the Istanbul Convention on fighting violence against women led him to halt the process seeking further clarification. The timeline for this review has not been published. The scheme would have been a positive step to addressing Lithuania’s poor scores in gender equality, where Lithuania ranks 23rd in the EU on the Gender Equality Index. With a discriminatory system of contraceptive access and weak provision of sexuality education, teenage pregnancy is between two to three times higher than many other European countries, where girls from poorer background are at a higher risk of having unintended pregnancies. Long-acting reversable contraceptives, which would be covered by the scheme, are recommended by both the American Academy of Pediatricians (AAP) and American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) as the first-line contraceptive for girls due to their safety and efficacy. Caroline Hickson, Regional Director at the International Planned Parenthood Federation, European Network said: ‘It is regrettable to see the Minister second guess a decision that would have profound impact on the reproductive lives of Lithuanian women and girls. We hope the Minister listens to the scientific consensus on contraceptive protection and stands firm against the machinations of groups that lack accurate knowledge and fuel fears based on misinformation.’ Contraceptive reimbursement is an established practice across Europe where it has been shown to increase contraceptive use among vulnerable groups, including young women. In the Netherlands, a combination of contraceptive reimbursement and the provision of high-quality sexuality education has led to high contraceptive prevalence among young people, where 90% use contraception during first intercourse. Rates of teenage pregnancy are also low in Slovenia which considers contraception a constitutional right that is covered by compulsory health insurance. The Minister’s hesitation over contraceptive reimbursement follows controversy over his recent recommendation that women ‘reconsider’ their need for abortion during the coronavirus lockdown. While he had previously indicated opposition to banning abortion, critics have noted a recent negative turn on reproductive safety and posit connection between this and the upcoming elections in October. Caroline Hickson continued: ‘Time and again we see the health and safety of women and girls put up for debate – this must end. Contraceptive care is a touchstone of gender equality and respect for women’s dignity, it is unacceptable to deprive women and girls of the care they need.’   For press inquiries: Cosmina Marian, Communications Advisor, International Planned Parenthood Federation, European Network: [email protected] / +32 495 339 380

vaska--smiling--white--bg.jpg
08 April 2022

Working with the Roma community and local actors for reproductive freedom

In the Balkans, IPPF members are working hand-in-hand with diverse networks of actors from within and around Roma communities. This work was shaped as the My Body, My Rights project. Our common goal is to strengthen girls’ lifelong reproductive freedom and tackle some of the deep-rooted, systemic obstacles that prevent people - especially women and youth - from living safer and healthier lives. How? By increasing access to care, creating supporting contexts for choice and advocating for investment. Our work is community-driven and based on fostering local partnerships. At the heart of this collective action are Roma volunteers, girls and boys, health mediators and local NGOs, leading grassroots change and advocating for their own unique communities. Doctors, community nurses and teachers are working with them to help deliver lasting impact. And some decision-makers are stepping up and beginning to make much-needed investments in more equitable access to reproductive healthcare. We are proud to share highlights of our work, recommendations to decision-makers and resources for further reading. Explore our new microsite!   

family planning
27 January 2022

European donors increase support to sexual and reproductive health and rights worldwide

The period 2020-2021 was one of the most challenging in recent memory. COVID-19’s fierce sweep across the world has been demanding a bold response that simultaneously safeguards the health, social and economic gains achieved to date. The COVID-19 pandemic has laid bare the critical global challenges that cannot be tackled in silos by individual countries. Foreseeing the severe effects of the pandemic in developing contexts, movements have been calling for international solidarity and equality, including the centrality of SRHR therein. European governments have been responding to, joining and even leading these calls. This report analyses 2020 funding data and 2021 political stances adopted by twelve European governments and the EU institutions. As such, it assesses changes in SRH/FP funding pre- and post-pandemic for those specific donors and for the period at stake only - with other possible trends being observable only in the longer run. It also assesses, for the first time, European support to the broader SRHR agenda. This report shows that, instead of plunging contributions to SRH/FP in their international cooperation, European governments have in fact increased support in 2020: data collected indicates donors contributed 2.614 billion Euros to SRHR, this includes 1.447 billion Euros disbursed to SRH/FP, reaching a new maximum. 12 out of the 13 European donors under review either increased or maintained funding compared to the previous year. But even though official development assistance (ODA) has not fallen so far, it is important that European governments maintain and scale up their commitments. European donors continue to be vocal about the importance of SRHR in international development.  2021 introduced another ground-breaking platform to reinstate support to the SRHR agenda: the Generation Equality Forum, which aimed to advance the implementation of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action. European donors pledged new support to SRHR in that context, but it remains to be seen how central this agenda will remain in development budgets.   For more detailed data and analysis, read the full report ‘European Donor Support to Sexual & Reproductive Health & Family Planning – With a Spotlight on SRHR. Trends Analysis 2020-21’  Read our factsheet summarizing the findings of the report.  Read the country and EU factsheets. The data can also be further explored on the online data dashboard here.

vaska--smiling--with--bg.jpg
20 September 2021

My friends think I’m crazy, because I only have one child. But I know I can decide when to have another. Vaska's Story

“I got married quite early, when I was 17. A year and a half later I got pregnant and had a baby girl. Now she is 18 months old. My husband started a job in the city in a company which is popular among Roma people, and I stayed home to look after our child.  Last year I met Valya, the health mediator. She told me they organize meetings, and she invited me to take part in a women’s group. Initially I didn’t know what we would do, but it was interesting as there were other women like me. During these meetings we spoke very often about contraception in general, and especially about IUDs. The women shared what they had heard and what they knew about them. It was strange, but most of them said that IUDs harm women’s health. I also understood that the men are worried about their wives’ health and that that’s why they don’t approve of contraception. I heard women say other things as well, like you can still get pregnant with an IUD, that you may gain weight, that IUDs move in the body, and so on and so forth.  One day, during a meeting, we spoke again about contraception, and more precisely, what we thought was a good family size. People had different views. I personally think that it is not so much about the number of children as it is about being able to make sure you have everything you need - clothes, food, the possibility to educate them. Everyone should take these issues into consideration before having children.  I thought more often about myself and my family. We didn’t have high incomes and we could barely afford our bills. Our daughter was a baby and it was challenge to provide for her. My husband and I started to talk about it, and I started to think about getting an IUD. That’s why six months ago I decided to have one fitted, and I feel fine. It isn’t painful and I haven’t gained weight. My friends think I’m crazy, because I only have one child. But I know that I’ll be able to decide when to have another one.” When vulnerable communities, volunteers and professionals unite for reproductive freedom, they are a powerful force for change. Watch Vaska’s story and others in our short film about the amazing work our members in Bulgaria, Romania and Serbia are doing to support the lifelong reproductive health and safety of Roma girls, women and young people.

women-in-community--with--bg (1).jpg
27 September 2021

My Body, My Rights - short film

When vulnerable communities, volunteers and professionals unite for reproductive freedom, they are a powerful force for change. Our short film features five stories that show how IPPF members in Bulgaria, Romania and Serbia are supporting the lifelong reproductive health and safety of Roma girls, women and young people, working on the multiple fronts necessary to improve access and uptake of quality family planning and maternal health care. Learn more about the My Body, My Rights project here. 

guillaume-perigois-wVqC9dty3VQ-unsplash (1).jpg
24 June 2021

European Parliament adopts landmark position on sexual and reproductive rights

The European Parliament voted today in favour of a landmark report presented by Croatian MEP Predrag Fred Matić on “the situation of sexual and reproductive health and rights in the EU”. While the European Parliament has repeatedly expressed concerns over the lack of full realisation of, and attacks against women’s rights, gender equality and sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR), this report is the first of its kind in almost 10 years to give such a degree of political importance to SRHR at EU level. The report addresses the full range of SRHR and highlights the importance of accessing all essential SRH services, including comprehensive sexuality education, contraception, abortion, maternal health and fertility services; and of preventing and addressing sexual and gender-based violence. The vote sends a strong signal that MEPs are fully committed to protect and promote SRHR in the EU at a time when human rights in sexuality and reproduction are increasingly challenged by illiberal leaders, even within the EU, and as the global community makes inspirational commitments to advance SRHR in the Generation Equality Forum.  Neil Datta, Secretary for the European Parliamentary Forum for Sexual and Reproductive Rights, said, “Today, the European Parliament assumed its leadership role in strongly upholding the fundamental rights of all Europeans despite deliberate campaigning to incite fear and block the report. Common sense, human rights and values prevailed and MEPs were able to stand up for education and health over ignorance and religious ideology. As awareness about anti-gender movements increases, we can safeguard women’s rights, SRHR and gender equality more effectively”.   "The adoption of the report today is a great achievement for the European Parliament and those involved in the negotiations - although protecting the health and rights of everyone should not be controversial. We celebrate the EU’s reinforced commitment to promoting SRHR both within and outside the EU. The EU should now take concrete steps to make the promotion of SRHR for all a priority, both in its internal and external action.” Lisa Goerlitz, Head of Brussels Office, Deutsche Stiftung Weltbevölkerung (DSW). “We now look to the Member States and the European Commission to take the report’s recommendations forward and deliver on sexual and reproductive safety, care and freedom for all. We want to see serious advances on access to sexual and reproductive care as part of a society free from sexism and discrimination,” says Caroline Hickson, Regional Director of the International Planned Parenthood Federation European Network (IPPF EN).  

EU
11 May 2021

A vote for women's health, safety and freedom in the EU (statement)

On the tenth anniversary of the Istanbul Convention - the most far-reaching international legal instrument to set out binding obligations to prevent and combat violence against women - the European Parliament Women’s Rights and Gender Equality Committee (FEMM) voted today in favour of the report presented by MEP Predrag Fred Matić on “the situation of sexual and reproductive health and rights in the EU” by 27 votes in favour. This resolution is the first European Parliament Report specifically dedicated to SRHR in almost 10 years. “The report provides an in-depth analysis of SRHR, recognising that SRHR is not only a human rights issue; it is also intrinsically linked with gender equality, women’s empowerment and combating gender-based violence. The report also provides a way forward on how the EU can deliver on reproductive freedom, safety and dignity for all”. – Caroline Hickson, Regional Director of the International Planned Parenthood Federation European Network (IPPF EN).  The report gives a high level of political importance to SRHR at EU level at a crucial time, with challenges in accessing the whole range of SRHR being compounded by COVID-19 measures and some Member States backsliding on women’s rights, gender equality and SRHR across Europe and globally.  “SRHR are at the core of several EU competency areas, including health, gender equality and non-discrimination, combating gender-based violence, fundamental rights and the rule of law. The EU is a longstanding SRHR supporter in its development and human rights policies and needs to safeguard SRHR both within and outside the EU for everyone.” – Cécile Vernant, Head of EU Advocacy at Deutsche Stiftung Weltbevölkerung (DSW). The Report has been tabled for a plenary vote at the European Parliament in June. EPF Secretary Neil Datta added: “Europe has a responsibility to take up a global leadership role on these issues, and this vote today is an important first step. It is crucial that we continue to work vocally in support of women’s rights, reproductive freedom and gender equality, and a positive result in the plenary will send a strong signal that MEPs are fully committed to protect and promote SRHR in the EU.”  

Woman looks out of window
12 October 2020

Italy, France and Spain – positive steps on access to contraceptive and abortion care

IPPF EN is very encouraged by a series of positive developments in recent days which show European decision-makers and public bodies supporting the reproductive freedom and safety of women and girls, and rejecting harmful obstacles to care. At a time when other countries in Europe are pursuing retrogressive political agendas, we are heartened by these examples of progressive values shaping the legal frameworks which determine how women and girls access and experience care. Emergency contraception: Italy removes prescription hurdle for minors needing contraceptive care On 8 October, Italy’s national Medicines Agency (Aifa) announced new rules for under-18s needing to access emergency contraception. Adolescent girls will now be able to access this essential care over-the-counter in pharmacies without being required to have a prescription. The Aifa described this step forward as a “turning point for teenagers’ physical and mental health”, and “an ethical measure which will help avoid difficult situations in which girls usually bear the burden by themselves.” The organisation also announced the creation of a much-needed new website to provide information about contraception. (article in La Repubblica here) French Parliament paves the way for boosting women’s access to abortion care Also on 8 October, France’s National Assembly discussed a bill to strengthen the right to abortion. New measures approved in this first reading would include the extension of the legal deadline for access to abortion from 12 to 14 weeks of pregnancy, the possibility for midwives to carry out surgical abortions up to the 10th week, and the removal of the clause that enables care providers to deny women care based on their own personal beliefs. Our French member Le Planning Familial, which has regularly denounced the difficulties that women face in accessing abortion care, strongly supports these proposed new measures. LPF described them as a first step towards aligning with the European countries that have the most women-centred abortion legislation, and doing away with unnecessary hurdles to care: “This first reading of the law is a real step forward for women’s right to control their bodies. Thousands of French women go abroad to have abortions every year. This decision to extend the time limits makes it possible to fight against social inequalities, since not all women can access care abroad, and against territorial inequalities, because all women in Europe should have the same right to safety and reproductive freedom.” (Full statement in French from Le Planning Familial here) The next step will be a vote on the reform in the French Senate. Abortion care: Spain plans to remove 2015 parental consent obstacle for 16 and 17-year-olds Spain’s government has announced its intention to reform the current abortion law to remove a hurdle introduced in 2015 by the ruling Conservative government requiring 16 and 17-year olds to seek parental consent before being able to access abortion care. Equality Minister Irene Montero also announced plans to promote relationships and sexuality education, given its role in protecting young people against the risk of gender-based violence, and to boost contraceptive access and choice. In a statement, our Spanish member the FPFE welcomed the government’s announcement, and hoped that it would be swiftly followed up with action to turn the commitments into reality, reiterating that the current parental consent requirement is a threat to young women's health, safety and autonomy.    On contraceptive care, they noted that the proposal to guarantee “the best possible access to contraception with its “most innovative and effective” forms… would bring the Spanish state closer to the level of access… in other European countries.” The FPFE also called for the announcement to “be accompanied by measures that guarantee public funding of all contraceptive methods…, to end the inequalities between autonomous communities, and of measures that also entail access for all women… regardless of their administrative situation.” (Full FPFE statement here; BBC article here)

Young woman and contraceptive methods
26 September 2020

Making contraceptive freedom a reality in vulnerable communities

Today is World Contraception Day – a day for raising awareness about contraceptive care. It might seem surprising that we still need to raise awareness - isn’t everyone in Europe using modern contraception nowadays? Unfortunately, the answer is no. In Romania, Bulgaria and Serbia, for example, less than half of women use a modern method. Many women and girls from the poorest and most socially excluded communities in the Balkans rely on withdrawal. Contraceptive use is hugely influenced by myths and misinformation about hormonal contraception. This can be tackled by raising awareness and providing accurate information, which is exactly what we are doing in Roma communities in these countries. With support from the communities, our local partners are training and building essential life skills among Roma women and men to enable them to act as points of contact for their friends, children, neighbours and family. And this approach is bearing fruit. Last year, I visited Kosharnik, a neighbourhood in the city of Montana in the north of Bulgaria, where 6000 Roma have settled. 600 of them live in extreme poverty, without running water or electricity. They form a ‘ghetto within the ghetto’. Many have no income and struggle to survive. Contraception is a life-changer for women living in this neighbourhood. One young woman living here told us that local sessions organised by a health mediator from the community had convinced her of the advantages of contraceptive care. She had married at 17 and now, three years and one child later, had decided after careful consideration with her husband what was right for her: “One day, we spoke again.. about what is a good number of children in a family... I thought more about me and my family. We didn’t have a high income and could barely pay our bills. Our daughter was a baby and it was challenge to look after her. With my husband we started to discuss it, and I started to think about getting an IUD... That’s how six months ago I decided to have one fitted… My friends told me I’m crazy, they said I only have one child. But I know that I can decide myself when to have another, and that I’ll do so consciously.” Raising awareness is just part of the solution. Roma women and girls face many more hurdles to get the family planning services they need. Many are uninsured, which makes contraceptive care costly, so we support them to get health insurance. Often, it takes hours to reach healthcare services on public transport, so most women can’t even make the trip. That is why our Bulgarian partner collaborates with a doctor who visits the nearby community health center to provide contraceptive care free-of-charge. We encourage and even push doctors to get out of their consultation rooms and provide information, counselling and even services in the communities. This simple intervention boosts access for women and girls, but crucially also opens the eyes of the doctors, helping to change their perceptions and attitudes towards Roma people. In the words of one Serbian doctor: “This field work teaches me that we have to act like a human, to take the time to listen, ask and help”. Social norms and expectations are another reason that the uptake of contraceptive care is very low. Why would a young girl ask for contraception if she’s not even supposed to have sex before marriage? Or why would a teenage couple use contraception if they just got married and are expected to start a family as soon as possible ? Why would a man propose to his wife to use a condom – is he cheating on her? Young people and their communities need to talk - not just about contraception, but about sex, sexuality, relationships, gender, consent, and more! That’s why we support teachers, local nurses, health mediators and young people to build these essential life skills in their children and peers. Young people and children love the relationships and sexuality education sessions and even the adults we have trained get excited seeing the children’s enthusiasm. A community nurse in Romania told us: “This has helped us to see that more can be done... You realise that for a young girl of 11 or a young boy of 12, questions like "how to use a condom" or "what happens when you have sex with a girl on her period", are clearly taboo, and they have no one to talk to about these things because in their families it’s seen as shameful.... But we're trying to move forward and explain that it’s not bad to talk about these things..." Our work in the Balkans with some of Europe’s most vulnerable communities brings home just how much contraceptive care still changes and saves lives in Europe. It also highlights that making contraceptive freedom a reality for everyone requires civil society, decision-makers and care providers to unite as a team, with and for local communities. Above all, political commitment is needed to ensure all women can live safe and dignified reproductive lives. --- Marieka Vandewiele is a Senior Programme Advisor at IPPF EN's Regional Office.  You can read more about this work here.

BecauseSheCounts campaign
04 September 2020

Because She Counts

Our #BecauseSheCounts social media campaign asks decision-makers to put universal health care, human rights and equality at the core of all public policy and funding decision, amid the pandemic and always. To join our campaign, share our #BecauseSheCounts messages and visuals and tag us @C2030Europe! Ask your governments to continue to prove that solidarity goes beyond borders and should not be limited to European Union countries. Find our social media campaign package here.

Contraception IPPF
04 June 2020

Government caught between science and ideology on contraceptives scheme

The Lithuanian Health Minister, Aurelijus Veryga, has halted a new contraceptive reimbursement scheme following interference by religious NGOs and politicians. The Minister signed his approval of the scheme in April following a recommendation by the Lithuanian Society of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists and the State Commission on Drugs and Medicine Reimbursement, but objections by groups opposed to marriage equality and ratification of the Istanbul Convention on fighting violence against women led him to halt the process seeking further clarification. The timeline for this review has not been published. The scheme would have been a positive step to addressing Lithuania’s poor scores in gender equality, where Lithuania ranks 23rd in the EU on the Gender Equality Index. With a discriminatory system of contraceptive access and weak provision of sexuality education, teenage pregnancy is between two to three times higher than many other European countries, where girls from poorer background are at a higher risk of having unintended pregnancies. Long-acting reversable contraceptives, which would be covered by the scheme, are recommended by both the American Academy of Pediatricians (AAP) and American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) as the first-line contraceptive for girls due to their safety and efficacy. Caroline Hickson, Regional Director at the International Planned Parenthood Federation, European Network said: ‘It is regrettable to see the Minister second guess a decision that would have profound impact on the reproductive lives of Lithuanian women and girls. We hope the Minister listens to the scientific consensus on contraceptive protection and stands firm against the machinations of groups that lack accurate knowledge and fuel fears based on misinformation.’ Contraceptive reimbursement is an established practice across Europe where it has been shown to increase contraceptive use among vulnerable groups, including young women. In the Netherlands, a combination of contraceptive reimbursement and the provision of high-quality sexuality education has led to high contraceptive prevalence among young people, where 90% use contraception during first intercourse. Rates of teenage pregnancy are also low in Slovenia which considers contraception a constitutional right that is covered by compulsory health insurance. The Minister’s hesitation over contraceptive reimbursement follows controversy over his recent recommendation that women ‘reconsider’ their need for abortion during the coronavirus lockdown. While he had previously indicated opposition to banning abortion, critics have noted a recent negative turn on reproductive safety and posit connection between this and the upcoming elections in October. Caroline Hickson continued: ‘Time and again we see the health and safety of women and girls put up for debate – this must end. Contraceptive care is a touchstone of gender equality and respect for women’s dignity, it is unacceptable to deprive women and girls of the care they need.’   For press inquiries: Cosmina Marian, Communications Advisor, International Planned Parenthood Federation, European Network: [email protected] / +32 495 339 380