Report finds sex education failing
School pupils are not getting enough information and girls who get pregnant are made to wait too long for an abortion
NOT enough is being done in schools to teach young people about sex - and women seeking an abortion are faced with unacceptably long waiting lists, a critical report has found.
The Inspection Générale des Affaires Sociales (Igas) found 30,000 girls under 18 seek abortions in France each year. The total abortion rate, taking into account all age groups, remains stable at about 200,000 a year despite major campaigns to promote and improve access to contraception.
The researchers found that two-thirds of 15-year-old girls surveyed thought it was not possible to get pregnant from the first sexual encounter.
Health Minister Roselyne Bachelot admitted yesterday that more needed to be done and said she was working with Education Minister Luc Chatel to improve sex education in schools. Since 2001, collèges and lycées have had to offer three hours of lessons each year.
Igas said the morning-after pill was "not having a significant impact". It has been available without a prescription since 1999 and is free for under-18s – but the report found that many young women were either not aware of it or were scared to ask for it, especially in rural areas where the local pharmacist is often a family friend.
The report was also critical about access to abortion clinics - 90 of them closed between 2000 and 2006, and the 639 that are left have waiting lists of up to a fortnight. People living in big cities are particularly affected.
The Health Ministry said it wanted to "strengthen" family planning clinics and guarantee free and anonymous access to contraception to under-18s. The Igas report praised campaigns being led at regional level - however a recent initiative by Poitou-Charentes president Ségolène Royal to give condom vouchers to schoolgirls was condemned by the government.
Bachelot told Le Parisien: "The contraception pass was an interesting idea. The problem I had with it was Ségolène Royal was introducing it in her corner of France without any prior discussion – it was a political move.
"What I want is for every woman to have access to the contraception that best suits her needs."
Royal sends condom vouchers to teens