The city of Turku in southwest Finland will provide free contraception to people under the age of 25 in a new initiative launched earlier this week.
Young people in the city will receive birth control pills, vaginal rings, transdermal patches and other long-term contraceptives free of charge.
Condoms will also be made freely available, regardless of gender.
"We consider it important to support young people's sexual health and to prevent unwanted pregnancies," said Tuula Cornu, Director of Preventive Health Services from the City of Turku. "Free prevention brings equality and reaches everyone."
"This is a really important thing"
The new initiative immediately proved to be popular, as there were 158 calls to the city’s Birth Control Clinic on Monday - three times as many as a normal day.
One of the first to arrange an appointment at the clinic was Neea Laine, who pointed out the importance of free contraception for people her age.
"For a low-income student, this is a really important thing. And especially since contraception is often left to women, it's good to have support," Laine said.
Another visitor to the clinic, Vilma Karjalainen, fully supported the new initiative.
"Teenage pregnancies are quite common and lead to abortions that affect mental well-being. Not all young people can afford prevention," Karjalainen ponders.
According to Cornu, this is another reason why long-term contraceptives are gaining in popularity.
"The Sexual and Reproductive Health Action Plan recommends long-term contraception because it is safer and not user-dependent," Cornu explained, adding that one in three people now choose a long-term method of contraception.
Decrease in abortions
The provision of free birth control has become more common in Finland in recent years. An estimated 50 to 60 Finnish municipalities already offer free contraception to young people, each with their own specific conditions.
The experience has been broadly successful. In the district of Vantaa, for example, where free birth control has led to a 30-percent reduction in teenage pregnancies in three years.
On a national scale, the National Institute for Health and Welfare (THL), has attributed the fall in Finland’s abortion rate to the the provision of free contraception. In 2018, the number of abortions in Finland was its lowest level since the introduction of abortion legislation.
In a recent survey of young people, THL found that about 20 percent of teens had not used any form of contraception in their most recent sexual encounter.
Free birth control is also included in the government program announced in June this year, but if and how young people take advantage of the offer still depends on where they live.