“Free contraception is a central sexual and reproductive health right”, says President Heikki Koponen of the National Union of University Students in Finland (SYL). Young people have a right to be healthy. No one should have to depend on abortion. SYL wants to see a legislation that defines the responsibility of municipalities and student healthcare to supply free birth control for all youth under 25 years of age. Young people should have access to free contraception, both hormonal and condoms.
The Finnish Health Care Act defines that the responsibility for promoting sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR) lies with municipalities and student health care. Legislative changes can ensure free and equal contraception for all young people in Finland. Municipalities need to improve SRHR services for youth, state the Ministry of Social Affairs and Health (MSAH) and the National Institute for Health and Welfare (THL) in their recommendations.
Studies show that access to free contraception increases the use of it. In municipalities providing free contraception, teen abortions and sexually transmitted infections (STIs) decreased notably. In Rauma, for instance, where free contraception for young people was introduced in 2011, the number of cases of chlamydia has fallen by one third among people younger than 20-year-old. Free contraception has been estimated to save Rauma 100,000 euro annually.
“Although providing free contraception can cut healthcare costs significantly, the most important aspect is that young people remain healthy and well, and that they do not have to experience terminating a pregnancy. Most abortions are made in the age group 20-24-year-old. The people in this age group are often students of limited means, for whom contraception may be an unreasonable expense,” comments Annu Komulainen, member of SYL’s Executive Board.
Along with free contraception, we need to pay more attention to the patterns of sexual behaviour among youth. SYL demands diverse low-threshold contraception services for young people. These are to include services where young people can receive advice about sexual integrity, taking action and getting help in cases of sexual violence, as well as on sexual health hazards, such as sexually transmitted infections. The services must also consider LGBTIQ* persons.
Heikki Koponen, President, tel. +358 44 906 5007, email@example.com
Annu Komulainen, Board Member (wellbeing), tel. +358 44 906 5004, firstname.lastname@example.org
*LGBTI is an umbrella term for lesbian, gay, bi, trans, intersex, queer