Some say life improves when you enter your thirties however, it does not get cheaper, especially if you are a woman in Luxembourg.
On 1 August the Luxembourg expanded the range of family planning devices to be 80% subsidised by the health fund (CNS), but only to women aged under 30, revised up from 25.
“We don’t understand the logic of limiting it at 30. We said the same when they first introduced it for under 25s,” president of sexual health organisation Planning Familial Ainhoa Achutegui told Delano in an interview on Monday. “We want reimbursement of birth control for women until they reach menopause or for women in precarious situations.”
The change was first announced in October 2017, after birth control subsidies were first introduced in Luxembourg in 2012 for women aged under 25.
Over 30s and abortions
Achutegui points out that if the logic of subsidising contraception was to avoid women resorting to abortion, then it failed as over 30s are also concerned by abortions. 2016 data (pdf) shows that a fifth of abortions were requested by women aged 35 to 44, and 44% by women aged 25 to 34.
Another complaint about the much-lauded reform is that it subsidises only a small amount of the cost of the coil (totally costs can be between €300 and €400) when there is a growing shift in demand for these “more natural” methods, according to the president. What is more, it excludes the implant, a form of contraceptive which is growing in popularity among young people, and the emergency contraceptive, or morning-after pill. “We think all contraceptives should be included because every woman needs to be able to choose which one is right for her,” the campaigner said, adding: “I sincerely think the health minister wanted to do more but there are conservative powers at play that are stronger than she is.”
50 years of family planning
All contraceptives are currently available free of charge to patients using the Planning Familial services, which in 2016 issued free contraception to 6,933 people and morning-after pills to 791 patients. While the service is specialised in working with marginalised women, such as illegal migrants, and those on low incomes, it is open to everyone as it treats women’s reproductive rights equally.
Photo: Neimenster/archive. Ainhoa Achutegui, pictured, is president of sexual health organisation Planning Familial
Understanding the government’s resistance to birth control subsidies for all is not easy. It would appear not to be related to a lack of finances as the CNS in 2017 recorded a total cash reserve of €467m. More likely it has something to do with prevailing attitudes. To demonstrate this enduring conservative mentality, the campaigner cited one person who asked if subsidising female birth control wasn’t “counter-productive to the country’s (ageing) demography.” “I nearly went through the roof when I heard that. I won’t solve the demographic problem. No woman will,” Achutegui said.
It is not only in birth control subsidies in Luxembourg that women face discrimination. In 2016 Planning Familial launched a petition drawing attention to the fact that women’s sanitary products are taxed at 17% as if they were a luxury item, an anomaly referred to as the “tampon tax”. The basket of products taxed at the super cheap rate of 3% currently includes things like razors, condoms, pet food and cola.
While Achutegui says the tax has not impacted young women in Luxembourg to the point where they skip school because they cannot afford the products, it is a matter of principal and one which the Voix de Jeunes Femmes Luxembourg is now campaigning for. Cyprus, France and Belgium have already lowered VAT on women’s sanitary products and Achutegui is hopeful the next government will make it a reality in Luxembourg too. “I think it’s a question of time. It’s a trend on an international level. In the next two years, we will have that,” she said.