Having grown up in Massachusetts, where Puritan heritage is still strong and blue laws prevent us from buying alcohol on Sundays and federal holidays, I was surprised to arrive in France and see that condom dispensers are ubiquitous in subway stops and outside pharmacies.
And apparently, it’s totally normal to have your boyfriend or girlfriend sleep over, even if you still live at home with your parents, and even in high school. Here, “private life,” even for teens, is that – private.
According to a Conctraception.org report by Pediatrician Renaud de Tournemire:
– In the United States, there are 58.4 teen preganancies for every 1000 adolescents (a rate of about 0.6%)
– In France, there are 22.4 teen preganancies for every 1000 adolescents – approximately 1/3 of the US’s rate (0.2%)
In the US, where access to abortion depends largely on where you live (and the states with abstinence-only education and limited access to abortion tend to be the same states with exceptionally high teen birth rates), approximately 1/3 of teen pregnancies end in abortion.
In France, where access to abortion (interruption volontaire de grossesse) is guaranteed by law, it’s more than 2/3.
And while the Affordable Care Act only recently forced insurance companies in the United States to cover contraception methods (pending a Supreme Court ass-kicking of certain corporations’ so-called ‘religious beliefs’), contraception has been available to teens without parental permission since 2001, and has been covered by Sécurité Sociale since 1983.
What Kinds of Contraception are Covered by Sécu?
Despite the fact that all kinds of contraception are widely available, not everything is covered by sécu, or reimbursed at 100%.
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Emergency contraception, or Plan B (la pilule du lendemain), is also available in pharmacies, without a prescription for €7.
Do I need a prescription?
Prescriptions are required for hormonal contraception in France, and can be easily obtained by visiting a general practitioner or OB-GYN.If you’ve previously been on a prescription outside of France, make sure to bring your prescription with you, and if possible, a copy of the package insert.
The insert or packaging will help your doctor or pharmacist to determine exactly which brand and dose you were taking, so you don’t have to switch brands if your prescription goes by a different name in France.
Additionally, if you need a refill but can’t get to the doctor right away, you can try bringing your old pill pack to a pharmacy and asking them, “Pourriez-vous me dépanner avant que j’obtienne une nouvelle ordonnance?” Most pharmacists will sell you 1-3 months of your pill with a foreign prescription or even without a prescription at all, if you ask nicely and promise to go to the doctor soon.
Don’t ask me how I know this.
(Of course, without a prescription you won’t be reimbursed by Sécu, but most brands of the Pill cost about €15 per month without insurance.)
And, if your prescription is expired, note that pharmacists generally continue to fill them for about 6 months after the expiration date, so you don’t have to keep going back to the doctor.