The Norwegian Midwives' Society, Norwegian Nurses Association and sexual health organisation Sex og samfunn (Sex and Society), along with a number of political youth wings, have put forward a joint proposal for cheaper or free prescription-based contraception for people under the age of 16, reports broadcaster NRK.
Young people between the ages of 16 and 20 in Norway have since last year been entitled to free prescriptions for contraceptives, which can be issued by nurses through a state subsidy scheme.
While free condoms are already available to under-16s, other forms of contraception requiring medical prescriptions, such as contraceptive pills and IUDs are not.
People under the age of 16 not eligible for the scheme must consult their doctors and pay for contraception.
The group behind the proposal wants to remove the lower age limit, reports NRK.
“This is only relevant for a small group, but if it can prevent a 15-year-old girl from getting pregnant, we think it is positive and a good thing,” Tor Holte Follestad, assistant manager with Sex og samfunn, told NRK.
Follestad said that he did not believe the potential change to the scheme would encourage people under Norway's minimum legal age of 16 to have sex.
“We would rather believe that access to contraception also gives access to the health service. Young girls who are subjected to sexual activity or pressure from people they don't wish to be sexually active with would benefit from an extra incentive to contact health services,” Follestad said.
Follestad's comments are also reflected in the group's joint proposal.
“[The removal of the lower age threshold] will enable healthcare professionals to be more accessible for sexually active young people. Such low thresholds enable discussion of protection against sexually transmitted diseases, while also revealing potential non-consensual or abusive relationships,” says the proposal according to NRK's report.
Youth wings of all Norwegian political parties, with the exception of the Progress Party, have signed the proposal, reports NRK.
Ida Lindtveit, leader of the Norwegian Young Christian Democrats, told the broadcaster that, in addition to removing the lower threshold, she would like the offer of free prevention to be extended to people over the age of 20.
“Free contraception is the best protection against abortion we can have. For people under 16, consequences are serious for those who become pregnant against their wishes,” she said.
Lindtveit also said that she did not see the proposal as a potential encouragement for under-16s to have sex.
“If there's one thing all youth parties have been clear on, then it's that we must trust sex education focusing on setting boundaries and relationships. We must use different methods to give young people a good relationship to sex,” she said.
Ministry of Health and Care Services political advisor Mathilde Tybring-Gjedde told NRK that her department would now study the proposal.
“I think this is an important appeal. My assessment is that it is unfair that under 16s must pay full price for hormonal contraceptives,” Tybring-Gjedde told NRK.
Whether the department will put forward the proposal to parliament remains uncertain.
“We have not yet made any conclusions, but many good points have been raised. We will now continue to work with this,” Tybring-Gjedde said.
Youths under 16s are already entitled to free condoms in Norway, an important safeguard against sexually transmitted infections, she added.