Catherine Chéry, director of the NGO Planning Familial, is seen in her Luxembourg City office, in April, in a portrait taken for Delano by Mike Zenari
On 27 May, 50 years will have passed since Planning familial (family planning) opened their first centre at avenue Pescatore in Luxembourg City.
During its five decades, the NGO has seen many changes in the grand duchy’s social and political makeup, yet their objective has never changed: “To welcome all people without discrimination or stigmatisation.”
“Many people have the impression that Planning familial is only available for a certain demographic,” says Catherine Chéry, the organisation’s director. “However, this is not and has never been the case, Planning familial is accessible to everyone regardless of income or social status.”
When the non-profit opened its first clinic in 1967, a total of 23 patients were seen during the year; now Planning familial has clinics in Luxembourg City, Esch-sur-Alzette and Ettelbruck.
The core functions of the Planning familial are to educate and inform, provide advice on contraception and carry out screenings. “Two thirds of our clinic consultations are for screenings,” Chéry says. “Screenings can be for pregnancy, STDs or smear tests for cancer. Regardless of the type of test, there is no cost and it is completely confidential.”
As Luxembourg is a predominantly Roman Catholic country, termination of unwanted pregnancies has always been a sensitive topic and one that the Planning familial has been an active campaigner of.
“Abortion in Luxembourg up to 12 weeks has only been legal since 2015,” explains Chéry. “Under the first law voted in 1978, abortion was only permitted in certain circumstances and ultimately the decision of the gynecologist, not the patient,” she says.
“When the government changed in 2013, the law on abortion was amended and pre- counselling became optional,” notes Chéry. “Prior to these changes, the law of 2012 had allowed the Planning familial to act as pre-counsellor and this is a service we still provide free of charge.”
In addition to its core functions, the Planning familial also provides consultations on infertility, in vitro fertilisation treatment and counselling during menopause. “We are here to provide emotional support as well as medical help,” Chéry states. “All of the services offered by the Planning familial have an emotional impact on the patient and our role is to listen and offer guidance. We see the individual and we do not judge.”
More than 40 different nationalities visit its centres every year and the group provides information in multiple languages. For asylum seekers and refugees, Planning familial can provide services prior to the patient receiving official status. This is particularly important in terms of prevention as short-term contraception is not free of charge after the age of 25 in Luxembourg.
Since 2015 the organisation has been funded by the ministry of health and last year, health minister Lydia Mutsch spoke at the 50th anniversary conference, highlighting the paramount importance of sexual education. “The Planning familial provides education and advice from puberty to the menopause,” states Chéry. “We are always available when people need us.”
This article was first published in the May 2017 issue of Delano magazine. Be the first to read Delano articles on paper before they’re posted online, plus read exclusive features and interviews that only appear in the print edition, by subscribing online.