The Colombian Government recently passed a law which guarantees access to free contraceptives, including surgical procedures such as vasectomy and tubal ligation. The law was proposed several years ago, but received the push into legislation from new President Juan Manuel Santos.
Under the constitution, Colombian citizens have access to universal health care which has incidentally driven up government costs—especially for maternity and newborn health care. The new law encourages Colombians to access free contraceptives in an effort to contain costs and expand the sexual and reproductive rights of men and women.
The law comes at a critical point in Colombia’s health history as teenage pregnancy rates have reached new heights. Currently 21% of girls under the age of 20 are having children, an increase from 13% in 1990. These pregnancy rates are almost 3 times as high as the current teen pregnancy rates of adolescents in the US. This law will allow young women to better access contraception and prevent unintended pregnancy.
While the law expands access to a range of contraceptive methods for Colombian women of all socioeconomic and demographic backgrounds, health care workers and government health plans face the greater challenge of educating men and women about the new provisions in the health system. In order to educate women and men about the new law, the Colombian government and its partners within the health system must intensify their education initiatives especially in areas where health care access and education is lacking.