The Catalan government supports universal access to long-term birth control: “Sexual and reproductive rights are human rights”

Free access to copper IUD and subdermal implants are to be made available to women up to 29 years of age, to those who have voluntarily terminated pregnancy, and to those who are in a situation of vulnerability

The government will provide free access to copper intrauterine devices (IUD) and subdermal implants for gestating women and persons of up to 29 years of age, for those who have voluntarily terminated their pregnancy, and to those who are in a situation of vulnerability, either for socio-economic reasons or because of sexist violence.

This provision comes under the Plan to improve access to long-term contraceptives presented on Monday by Minister of Health Manel Balcells and Minister of Equality and Feminism Tània Verge. The plan is endowed with a budget of €1,246,247 and has been drawn up with the participation of the Catalan Society of Gynaecology and Obstetrics, the Catalan Society of Contraception and the Catalan Association of Midwives.

The copper IUD and the subdermal implant have been chosen mainly for their effectiveness in preventing pregnancy, since they do not depend on compliance with any guidelines by the user, and because they are immediately reversible methods from the moment they are withdrawn. In addition, they are discreet and easy to use, as they are inserted into either the uterus or the forearm respectively, and this preserves the user’s intimacy.

Offering them for free means to make access to long-term contraceptives universal within the next four years. “Sexual and reproductive rights are human rights, and must be enjoyed without any kind of discrimination, such as those posed by socio-economic barriers,” defended Ms Verge.

The Plan also aims to promote access to quality information about one’s own sexual and reproductive health. “It is necessary to ensure that the information that is conveyed is accurate, comprehensive, up-to-date and easily understood,” explained Mr Balcells. Advice on contraception must therefore include information on the effectiveness of the different methods, possible side effects, and the risks and benefits of each device, among other things.

Ultimately, these measures aim to contribute to reducing voluntary terminations of pregnancy, and the selection of the population benefiting corresponds largely to this objective: firstly, over half of the pregnancy terminations in Catalonia are of young women up to 29 years; secondly, it has been shown that, when contraceptive measures are applied after a termination, contraceptive method is more closely maintained and user satisfaction also increases; and finally, in situations of vulnerability such as a low income or gender-based violence, the long-term effectiveness of these methods is especially important, as is the fact that others will only be aware if the user wishes to reveal it.

Finally, the Plan also ensures that the promotion of the use of long-term methods does not decrease the use of condoms, as this could mean an increase in sexually transmitted infections. That is why it posits various initiatives and strategies for prevention, such as sex education in schools and awareness of health-care professionals.