Population Matters

Access to contraception in the European Union

Access to contraception in the European Union

Across the globe, approximately 222 million women have an unmet need for contraception. The lack of access to modern contraception is not restricted to developing countries — in the European Union (EU), there has been little improvement in increasing access to modern contraception choice in recent years and in many cases the situation has actually worsened.

A recent report by the International Planned Parenthood Federation European Network (IPPF EN) analysed how easy it is for women to access contraception and family planning advice in 16 EU countries. The report indicates that:

Woman visiting a doctor

  • Less than half of the countries examined have created and implemented a comprehensive sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR) strategy with a specific focus on fertility control and access to modern contraceptive choice. Poor political leadership and financial support are common obstacles and in some countries religious influence presents a barrier.

  • Sexuality education is mandatory in just nine of the 16 countries and it rarely includes providing information about the range of contraceptive options available.

  • Free contraception is often not available, which is having a significant impact on women living on low incomes.

In the report’s foreword, Sophie Veld states, “The EU has a long way to go to make these rights reality for all its citizens. (The report) highlights some truly alarming gaps and unfinished business in making modern contraception accessible to all. The report is a real eye-opener for anyone who believed that this battle had been largely won by previous generations.”

The IPPF EN has made several recommendations for countries as a result of the report’s findings. The recommendations include:


  • Develop an integrated and comprehensive national SRHR policy framework addressing all key components of an effective approach to increase access to modern contraceptive choice.

  • Ensure full implementation of regular awareness campaigns on SRHR, including information on the full range of modern contraceptive methods.

  • Develop and implement mandatory education programmes and postgraduate training.

  • Develop adequate reimbursement schemes for modern contraceptive methods that address financial barriers of young women and vulnerable groups.

You can help by calling on your government to make sex and relationships education mandatory and to provide free contraceptives for all.

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