Social Inequalities in Access to Contraception in France

By Nathalie Bajos, Pascale Oustry, Henri Leridon, Jean Bouyer, Nadine Job-Spira, Danielle Hassoun, Equipe Cocon


Since contraception was legalized in France in 1967, there has been a sustained increase in use of medical contraception, notably third generation contraceptive pills that are not reimbursed by the social security. This change in contraceptive behaviour may well have generated new forms of inequality. This article shows that social inequalities in contraceptive use in France have changed in recent decades. At the beginning of the 1980s, access to the pill and the intrauterine device (IUD) was characterized by large inequalities. These inequalities subsequently declined sharply, for the pill in the 1990s and for the IUD at the end of the 1990s. COCON data show for the first time that such inequalities now affect access to third generation oral contraceptives. In addition to the financial obstacle of high price, the inequalities in access to these non-refundable products seem to result from women’s expectations, which are related to their social class, and from the behaviour of the prescribing doctors, which also varies with the woman’s social class. However, women seem not to prefer these new products.

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