March 23, 2011 ( – Starting April 25th, every girl enrolled in a high school or apprenticeship school in Paris and its region will be issued with a “contraception pass,” including four vouchers for a medical appointment, a blood sample, and three to six months’ worth of region-funded hormonal contraceptives.

The “Ile-de-France” regional council voted in favor of the measure – and budget – by a large majority in June last year. The measure has one clear objective: to ensure underage girls have access to free and anonymous contraceptive advice and prescription at school without parental knowledge or consent.

The plan is now well underway and is targeting girls aged about 14 to 18. Boys of the same age will be receiving similar material including “sexual health” advice and condoms.

Some 150,000 youngsters should be getting the “pass” this school year, at a potential cost of 59 to 204 euros ($85 to $290 U.S.) per person, paid for by the taxpayer.

The idea of giving girls under 18 direct access to the pill and other hormonal devices originally emerged in the Poitou-Charentes region. The president of the region, Ségolène Royal, former presidential candidate in 2007, decided in 2009 to issue similar vouchers to high school students because many girls in rural areas had no easy access to family planning centers.

At the time the French ministry of education was opposed to the move and local education authorities also refused to cooperate. They argued that family planning centers should alone be responsible for issuing minors with contraceptives, thus forcing Royal to revise her plan.

She then decided the regional council would provide doctors with “contraceptive checks” for young girls, but few girls seem to have taken advantage of the system.

Ségolène Royal was also responsible for implementing the distribution of the morning-after pill by all high school nurses in 2003.

In the French social security system, children and young people are insured under their parent’s names. While minors have the right to have personal and confidential medical appointments, the system allows parents to check when a consultation has taken place and whether medication has been prescribed to their children. Proponents of free and anonymous contraception say girls fear that their family doctor will tell their parents if they ask for the pill.

Segolène Royal’s original idea has now been taken up in the Paris region, which will be pioneering the initiative. Politically, consensus has been obtained at the regional council, where leftist, green and center parties voted for the measure, while the presidential party, UMP, abstained from voting.

Meanwhile, official directives from the Health and Sports Ministry to regional health authorities in December, also insist on the necessity of ensuring underage girls have easy, free and anonymous access to contraceptives.

Adolescent abortions are on the rise in France, and now represent about 5% of total abortions. Contraception and sexual education are being presented as the only possible way to bring the statistics down.

At the same time, however, France already holds what is practically considered as a world record for “contraceptive coverage” of fertile women – over 95% of fertile women who are sexually active are now using some form of contraception. While that percentage has been going up, the number of abortions is not going down: 77% of abortions are performed on women who were using some form of contraception when they conceived.