As a new administration enters the White House, many women find themselves living in reproductive-health limbo. Will Pence finally get his chance to defund Planned Parenthood? Will Roe v. Wade be overturned? Is Obamacare about to go the way of the dinosaurs?
Droves of us threatened to jump the pond in 2017, but before we board any planes we should explore the differences between reproductive rights in the EU and the US.
In the US: According to the Guttmacher Institute, “67% of [American] women who practice contraception currently use nonpermanent methods,” like the pill, IUD, or condoms. The Affordable Care Act (ACA) and not-for-profit organizations, like Planned Parenthood, aim to make preventatives more accessible for women. With their help, fewer women are forced to pay out-of-pocket for their preferred methods of birth control.
In the EU: Like their American sisters, 70% of women in Europe are using some form of nonpermanent contraception. The pill is the most commonly used method, followed by male condoms and IUDs. Contraceptives are widely accessible and oftentimes provided gratis through government health programs. (In the UK, the NHS covers 15 different methods!) The Parliamentary Assembly Council of Europe (PACE) recommends that Member States “provide contraception at a reasonable cost,” as available and affordable contraceptives equate to fewer unwanted pregnancies.
In the US: A well-woman visit is an annual exam, wherein a doctor will discuss your general wellbeing and run preventative screenings for cancer, heart disease, and more based on hereditary risk factors. Appointments often include family planning advice, IUD fittings, and pap smears. As a result of the ACA, Medicare and most private insurance plans now cover one well-woman exam a year.
In the EU: Virtually all countries in the EU have dedicated well-woman clinics — located both in and out of hospitals. Clinics provide similar testing to those performed in the States. Since nearly all European countries have universal health coverage, women are able to see a doctor or nurse as often as they please at little to no cost.
In the US: In 1973 the Supreme Court legalized abortion in the United States. Since then, states have legally enacted 1,074 abortion restrictions. These restrictions make it harder for women in certain states to terminate their pregnancies due to a lack of access. If Roe v. Wade is overturned, the onus will fall on the state to decide whether or not to prohibit abortion. Even though 56% of Americans believe abortion should be legal in most cases, we’re likely to see a conservative majority in the Supreme Court in the next few years.
In the EU: Each EU country has their own set of intricate abortion laws. In most countries, women can receive an abortion at their local public hospitals within 12 weeks of conception. Some countries — like Croatia and Belgium — require six days of reflection prior to the procedure, and some countries — such as Sweden and France — provide government-subsidized abortions. In England, Scotland, Wales, and the Netherlands, abortions are legal within the first 24 weeks. Poland, Ireland, and Northern Ireland have the most restrictive laws; they allow abortions only in cases of rape or incest, or when the health of the mother or fetus is at risk. Of all EU countries, Malta is the only one that bans abortion entirely.
In the US: Putting your eggs on ice isn’t as easy as it sounds. The process involves a myriad of blood-testing, pill-taking, and ultrasounds. It also means you’ll be eating a lot of ramen: freezing your eggs costs between $10,000 to $15,000, and is hardly ever covered by insurance — unless, of course, you work for Apple or Facebook. In the US, insurance may cover part of your egg-freezing procedure if you undergo cancer treatments that may cause infertility.
In the EU: Freezing your eggs in the EU isn’t any cheaper. In the UK, it costs around £4000 per cycle (three cycles are recommended for optimum success). In Germany, the average cost is €4500 per cycle. Similarly, European governments are likely to help cover costs if cancer treatments may cause infertility.
So, do American women have it better or worse than their European counterparts? It’s hard to say. It may be harder for a Polish woman to get the morning after pill than a New Yorker, but then it’s harder for a woman in Indiana to get an abortion than it is for a woman in France. What can be said — definitively — is that most European women receive better, less expensive government support for their health needs than women in the US.