The XX Factor

France Passes Law Granting Free Birth Control to Teenagers, and No One Balks

French teenagers, soon to be ruined by their sex-crazed nation’s liberal contraception policies.

Photograph by Remy Gabalda/AFP/GettyImages.

NPR reports that France is adopting a new regulation making contraception and contraception counseling free to girls 15 to 18, with an added provision that doctors must offer this care without notifying parents. Unlike here in the United States, the free contraception is covered by the state and not a girl’s insurance, giving her a further layer of privacy protections. The government hopes that by protecting young girls’ privacy, it can increase contraception use and reduce the teen pregnancy rate.

So: Straightforward, almost boring health care policy story about a government taking sensible, cost-effective measures to curb a public health problem. But the story isn’t really about health care policy—the underlying narrative here is that the French are yet again making American politicians look like a bunch of out of touch prudes. (Americans don’t need the French to point this out: Just wander into an American abstinence-only classroom to hear sexually active kids being told that anything short of waiting the 15-plus years between puberty and the average age of first marriage to have sex is a ruinous choice that will end with the fornicator unable to feel love or dead from AIDS.)

Needless to say, the measure sailed through the French legislature without any kind of political battle. Boring! How does that nation survive without its share of powerful right wingers claiming that giving girls access to contraception will lead to “sex-based cults” or that making it free means that girls who access the service are now obliged to give talk show radio hosts homemade pornography?

NPR, as is their custom, did manage to dredge up some opposition, a single Catholic organization called CLER. Their leader, Jean Eude Tisson, gave a half-hearted denunciation of the measure, because the Catholic Church opposes all forms of contraception on the grounds that it interfere with marriage bringing “the body and spirit together.” But again, no squawking about how the private choices of others interferes with his “religious freedom,” no disingenuous arguments conflating rape with consensual relationships between teenagers, no assertions that contraception is the same thing as abortion. Just an honest presentation of a religious claim that everyone knows will be rejected out of hand. Love these conservatives! I’m so jealous.