Girls between the ages of 15 and 18 in France will be able to get birth control free of charge, and without parental notification, starting in January 2013.
The free consultation and contraception, which can take place at the family doctor’s office, will be covered by the state and not a girl’s insurance, meaning that she will be protected by a further layer of privacy. By doing this, the government hopes to increase contraception use and reduce the teen pregnancy rate, which they believe is due to ignorance, taboo and a lack of access to contraception.
Under current rules, most teenagers can get absolute anonymity with a doctor, but have to pay for the visit in cash without submitting a claim to get the money back.
There are a few French clinics that provide this anonymity already.
From NPR, here’s a description of one of them in a low-income area of Paris:
On a recent day, a counselor talks with a handful of teenage girls in a sitting room. Clinic director Isabelle Louis says the young women who come to the clinic aren’t necessarily poor; she says many hail from well-off families and live on the other side of Paris.
“It’s not very easy for young women to go to see her family doctor and ask for contraception,” Louis says. “A lot of them are afraid the doctor would tell the parents she came.”
What a refreshing common-sense approach to the issue! Even better, the measure sailed through the French legislature without any kind of political battle.
Can you imagine that happening in the U.S.? Remember the fights over contraception in the U.S. election campaign earlier this year, with Mitt Romney declaring that, if elected President, he would get rid of Title X (the nation’s family planning program for low-income Americans), kill off Planned Parenthood, and remove birth control coverage from Obamacare?
In 21 states, all teenagers can get contraceptives without parental permission, according to the Guttmacher Institute. A few other states allow it under certain circumstances.
Whereas in France, there were no speeches about our young people abandoning God, no assertions that contraception is the same thing as abortion, nor any claims that giving girls contraception would lead to sex-based cults.
It should be obvious, but here are five reasons for providing teens free and anonymous access to contraception:
1. Teens are having sex, regardless of what they are told; indeed, thousands of them start having sex every year without asking their parents. In the United States, some 330,000 end up pregnant because of it, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
2. Just as the lack of access to birth control does not stop kids from having sex, neither does the ability to obtain contraception mean that they will start having sex. We should give our young people some credit here! Studies show access to birth control doesn’t increase sexual activities.
3. However, easy access to birth control does make sex safer, which is especially important for the kids who come from families where sexuality is a taboo subject, but who are having sex anyway. Really, as a parent, wouldn’t you prefer your child to be safe?
4. French health officials say the new measure will help protect teenagers who are from low-income families. This, of course, runs counter to the approach advocated by Romney, who would punish such families by taking away access to contraception.
5. Finally, it’s been proven over and over that the abstinence-only approach, so popular in the U.S., doesn’t work. It makes sense if you think about how it must be for a sexually active teenager to be told that he should wait around 15 years to have sex. (The time between puberty and the average age of first marriage.) Unfortunately, although President Obama did away with a decade of abstinence-only programs (to the tune of $1.5 billion), it looks as if they might be back.
So which do you prefer? The French model or the American model?
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