Italy: the objection map

October 2021. Pharmacies or pharmacists that object to supplying emergency contraception, remain a problem for access in many European countries. In Italy, a collective and participatory effort is in place to identify services where providers do not get in the way of women’s reproductive choice.

On the website of Objection Rejected (https://obiezionerespinta.info), a map points at services where emergency contraception is supplied without objections. The map is built from input provided by EC users and their experiences. Using the “Search” function, different types of services (pharmacies, counselling centers, hospitals, etc.) are pointed and categorized: those in green were considered adequate by users; those in red were not. Anyone can report anonymously on their experience procuring EC from a given venue and contribute to extend the map.

This is a very creative way to guide individuals to find responsive postcoital contraception services.

 

Italy and UK: different ways to address pharmacies objecting EC dispensing

September 2021. BBC3 recently reported the case of  two women in the United Kingdom being denied emergency contraception from their local pharmacy, which triggered serious criticism from the Royal Pharmaceutical Society (RPS) president: “Pharmacy refusal to provide emergency contraception is ‘completely unacceptable’”, said professor Claire Anderson. In 2017, the RPS updated its own  guidance on EC prescribing.

In Italy, last July, the magazine Donna Moderna conducted a small mystery shopper survey, finding that only six out of  the 10 pharmacies visited sold EC to women under 18. Age restrictions to buy UPA or LNG EC pills without prescription were lifted in October 2020 in Italy. The National Federation of Pharmacy License Holders (FEDERFARMA) sustains that objecting is not possible in Italy. A group of civil rights defenders have taken action and set up a website to report, identify and signal objecting pharmacists: https://obiezionerespinta.info/segnala/.

France: Emergency contraception not included in new gratuity measures

September 2021. The French Health Minister recently announced that in 2022, access to contraception will be free for women up to 25 years old.

This policy that makes access to some contraceptive methods free of cost (no charges for medical appointments to get a prescription, checkups, tests, and the method itself) extends now to all women up to age 25, in order to address financial barriers associated with a lower use of modern contraception among the young population, according to the Ministry of Health. A number of contraceptive methods were already available at no cost in the French Republic for women age 15 to 18 since 2013, and to women under-15 since 2020.

With regards to emergency contraception (EC), this new policy will not entail any change: EC pills are available in pharmacies without a medical prescription and can be dispensed anonymously and free of charge to girls under 18. For adult women, EC pills are reimbursed at 65% by the Health Insurance only when procured by medical prescription.

For more details visit the website of l’Assurance Maladie, the national health insurance program.

European Parliament adopts landmark position on sexual and reproductive rights

June 2021. On June 23rd, the European Parliament voted in favor of a landmark report presented by the Croatian Member of European Parliament (MEP)  Predrag Fred Matić on “the situation of sexual and reproductive health and rights in the EU”.

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; it addresses the full range of sexual and reproductive health and rights (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.

Paragraph 32 “recalls that Member States and public authorities have a responsibility to provide evidence-based, accurate information about contraception and to establish strategies to tackle and dispel barriers, myths, stigma and misconceptions; calls on the Member States to establish awareness-raising programmes and campaigns on modern contraceptive choices and the full range of contraceptives, and to provide high-quality modern contraceptive service delivery and counselling by healthcare professionals, including emergency contraception without prescription, in line with WHO standards, which is often denied in certain countries by doctors on the grounds of personal beliefs;”

Visit the European Parliamentary Forum for Sexual & Reproductive Rights (EPF) website for further details and download the report here.

Participation at the ESC Virtual Seminar

May 2021. Findings from ECEC’s and You Act’s participatory survey on emergency contraception access through community pharmacies in Europe, were presented on a poster at the European Society of Contraception and Reproductive Health (ESCRH) virtual seminar held on May 7 and 8, 2021.

We thank the ESCRH colleagues for this opportunity to share our work.

Malta: conscientious objection is an obstacle to EC

May 2021. According to a report from One.com in Malta, emergency contraception pills could only be bought in one of the five pharmacies visited on a recent Saturday afternoon. The report takes a look at EC accessibility in Malta five years after it was first registered and commercialised in the country, and the role conscientious objection pharmacists play in it.  Read more on https://www.one.com.mt/news/tag/morning-after-pill/

 

The Vatican and emergency contraception

April 2021. According to news on Raitre, for over 20 years and until 2016, the Vatican invested in companies that produce emergency contraception pills. The Vatican doctrine defends life from the moment of conception. Emergency contraception pills (popularly known as “the morning-after pill”) do not interfere with life after conception. Emergency contraception pills inhibit ovulation: if a woman has not yet ovulated, the pill will prevent her from ovulating (and will therefore prevent fertilization). The morning after pill does not interfere with the implantation of a fertilized egg. 

Therefore, with these investments, the Vatican has not transgressed its own doctrine.

You can visit our website, or WHO’s page on emergency contraception to lear more about this postcoital contraceptive method, that provides women with a second chance to prevent pregnancy, after unprotected sex.

 

UNFPA’s 2021 State of World Population report

April 202. According to UNFPA’s 2021 State of World Population report, published on April 14, nearly half of women in 57 low income countries are denied the right to decide whether to have sex with their partners, use contraception or seek health care.

This is the first time a United Nations report focuses on bodily autonomy: the power and agency to make choices about your body, without fear of violence or having someone else decide for you. This lack of bodily autonomy deeply harms individual women and girls, and also has massive implications at the socio-economic level.

The United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), is the United Nations sexual and reproductive health agency, and aims at improving reproductive and maternal health worldwide. The report is available in Arabic, English, French, Russian and Spanish from https://www.unfpa.org/SoWP-2021.