European & International News

New report reveals inequalities in access to contraceptive choice in 10 European countries and calls for coherent policies on sexual and reproductive health and rights

[International Planned Parenthood Federation, Brussels 19 June 2013]
A new report analysing contraceptive access across Europe has been launched today in the European Parliament at an event chaired by MEP Katarína Neve?alová. The report reveals serious differences between countries in how they approach access to contraceptive choice.

’The Barometer of Women’s Access to Modern Contraceptive Choice in 10 EU Countries’ was developed by the International Planned Parenthood Federation European Network (IPPF EN). The report, available below, provides a policy and status overview on women’s access to modern contraceptive choice across ten EU member states (Bulgaria, Czech Republic, France, Germany, Italy, Lithuania, the Netherlands, Poland, Spain and Sweden). The report highlights large gaps in the national policies analysed and urges policy makers to ensure that a comprehensive SRHR policy framework is established.

Commenting on the report’s findings, Vicky Claeys, IPPF EN Regional Director, said: “This report shows the diversity in which national governments address the issue of contraceptive choice across Europe and highlights inadequacies in national policy frameworks, pressing the need for increased dialogue between stakeholders and policy makers around sexual and reproductive health and rights. Ensuring women are able to make an informed choice and have equitable access to modern contraceptive methods is crucial in order to help them to decide whether and when to have children, which is an internationally recognized human right.”

The report argues that addressing the burden of unintended pregnancies should be a priority in modern societies, as current SRHR policies are generally scarce and inconsistent. This highlights the need for a greater level of political focus and financial support for SRHR policy. Stakeholders involved in the report went even further to call on urgent concrete policies to improve awareness amongst the general public, healthcare professional education and measures to address social inequalities impacting access to contraceptive choice at national level.

Katarína Neve?alová, Member of the European Parliament, commented: “Despite efforts by the European Union to support research on sexual and reproductive health and rights in the past, there is much more to be done in giving this issue the attention it deserves. The EU has a pivotal role to play in promoting coherent national policies on sexual and reproductive health and rights that address inequalities in access to modern contraception in EU member states, and it is time to bring this debate to the forefront.”

In addition to the absence of a comprehensive policy framework in many EU member states, the report found that there is an insufficient level of awareness and education around all modern contraceptive methods, with only 50% of the countries surveyed making sexuality education mandatory in schools. On the subject of professional guidelines, the report found a lack of effective and qualitative guidelines for healthcare professionals and service providers on contraception and individualised counselling, with the Netherlands, Sweden and Germany being the highest ranked countries for their evidence-based guidelines for healthcare professionals. The absence of consistently updated guidelines across Europe means that healthcare professionals are not always adequately informed about all contraceptive methods available and how best to advise their patients.

The report makes a number of policy recommendations aimed to empower women and young adults to benefit from appropriate contraceptive methods and access quality sexual and reproductive healthcare and information with the advice and support from healthcare professionals:

  • Develop targeted, comprehensive SRHR policy frameworks, in close collaboration with key stakeholders and the scientific community
  • Increase general awareness of modern contraceptive choice through public awareness campaigns. 30% of the EU member states analysed in the report do not have a government funded SRHR awareness campaign
  • Establish mandatory sexuality education at schools, including information on modern contraceptive choice
  • Ensure the provision of individualised counselling and quality services on SRHR
  • Establish targeted measures to overcome inequalities in women’s access to all methods of contraception
  • Work towards the prevention of discrimination and stigmatisation around SRHR
  • Ensure adequate policy integration and consistency by adopting targeted measures to improve access to contraceptive choice within broader employment, education and non-discrimination policies

Notes to Editors:
Media Contacts

Contact Marieka Vandewiele, Senior Programme Advisor, International Planned Parenthood Federation European Network (Tel. 00 32 (2) 250 09 50 )

About the report
The Barometer of Women’s Access to Modern Contraceptive Choice in 10 EU Countries was developed by the International Planned Parenthood Federation European Network (IPPF EN). The report is supported by a grant from Bayer HealthCare as a contribution improved delivery of healthcare and related health services. The following ten countries were included in the report: Bulgaria, Czech Republic, France, Germany, Italy, Lithuania, The Netherlands, Poland, Spain and Sweden.

Eight Policy Benchmarks related to access to contraceptive choice were developed. The countries have been scored against these Benchmarks in order to assess the degree to which policies exist and are implemented, monitored and evaluated. Each Benchmark is considered a key policy component of an effective policy approach to ensure access to modern contraceptives.

The research was developed between January 2012 and March 2013 using an evidence-based approach where IPPF EN Member Associations and independent national experts completed an online questionnaire.

The sum of all points allocated to the answers chosen per country resulted in a Country Specific Total indicating the country’s overall divergence from the eight policy Benchmarks. The sums were then transformed from a point value between 0-10 to a 0-100% score in order to facilitate comparison between countries.

About the partners

IPPF

The International Planned Parenthood Federation European Network (IPPF EN) represents one of six regions of the International Planned Parenthood Federation, 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 40 Member Associations in as many countries throughout Europe and Central Asia. IPPF EN’s Regional Office is located in Brussels, Belgium. IPPF EN has a participative status with the Council of Europe and a special consultative status with the Economic and Social Council of the United Nations (ECOSOC.) IPPF EN led the report structure and content, coordinating the involvement of relevant Member Associations and the wider network of experts in the countries covered in this report, and formulating the key findings and policy recommendations.

Bayer HealthCare

Bayer HealthCare is a leading women’s healthcare provider, committed to facilitating contraceptive choice to align with women’s needs and aspirations. Bayer would like to contribute to improved social and public health policies by bringing its expertise in the field of women’s healthcare and fertility control, and raising awareness about the need for consistent policies to promote women’s wellbeing. Bayer has supported this report with a grant. Bayer HealthCare had no editorial control of this report.

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