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Sex And Contraception: Why People Still Value Family Planning After 85 Years

A new survey by Family Planning confirms that for young people’s sexual health, what matters most is access to low cost, non-judgemental experts.

The survey released to mark our 85th birthday today, confirms our relevance decades after a group of strong and dedicated women fought stigma and the risk of possible imprisonment to ensure New Zealand women could get access to contraception and information.

While the need for essential sexual and reproductive health services remains unchanged since 1936, social norms have changed a lot. Today, society is not as judgemental or discriminatory. However, young people still face significant barriers to accessing services, including cost and a lack of health practitioners trained in offering youth-friendly sexual and reproductive health services and information.

"Young people in particular need information, support and empathy, not judgement," says Family Planning chief executive Jackie Edmond. "It’s about rights, inclusivity and people’s ability to have access to information and health services that are right for them."

Family Planning’s survey of 1,288 clients showed the top two individual reasons why young clients aged 16-19 chose Family Planning are: I can get free or low cost services (83%); staff here are good at helping young people (80%).

"Young people are capable of choosing what’s best for their sexual and reproductive health. "We see this through the thousands of young people coming to our clinics each year," Ms Edmond says.

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Some 21% of the young clients aged 16-19 surveyed said that other than Family Planning, they didn’t know where else they could get contraception, or they felt there was nowhere else to go. Other than Family Planning, more than one in six of our young clients didn’t visit any other health provider in the past 12 months.

A finding from the survey, and one that mirrors the reported decline in both teenage pregnancy and abortion rates, was that preventing a pregnancy was very important to two-thirds of our clients (66%) and very important to 78% of young clients. Among young clients, the top two reasons for using contraception were: I want to have a good job/better job, before I have a baby (76%) and I want to wait until I am ready to have a baby (75%). Seventy-two percent (72%) of all clients reported that contraception gives them more control over their lives.

The top two reasons for visiting Family Planning among all clients were: staff treat me respectfully (89%); staff know about contraception and sexual health (84%). The third and fourth reasons were the same for young clients and all clients: I can get the contraception I want; and services are confidential; no one needs to know.

"Overall, the survey shows that we are as relevant today as we were 85 years ago. We’re still seen as the experts in sexual and reproductive health and a safe place to go," said Ms Edmond. "People want to choose the number and spacing of their children, and young people particularly value cost-effective, youth-friendly services."

Family Planning was established in 1936, a time when available contraception was basic and unreliable, and people had little control over their fertility. The pioneers of Family Planning worked tirelessly, sometimes at risk of imprisonment and always at risk of judgement, to improve sexual and reproductive health and rights for women in New Zealand. These services were in high demand then, and this survey shows that nothing has changed. People still value a service that specialises, without judgement, in sexual and reproductive health.

Quote 2021

"Very friendly, and very comfortable and you can speak about absolutely anything. They don’t make you feel uncomfortable or embarrassed. There is always support."

Quote 1936

"I am expecting my fourth child shortly and as they have all arrived within five years, you will understand when I say I feel I need a rest."

Read the full survey results here.


Young people we heard from:

-234 respondents were aged 16-19 years, representing 18% of all survey respondents

-Ethnicity: Māori 27%; Pasifika 12%; Asian 7%; NZ European 62%; Other 12%

-Gender: 98% female; 1% male; 1% another gender.

All survey respondents:

-1,288 respondents from across most regions of New Zealand

-18% under aged 16-19; 48% age 20-29; 20% age 30-39; 9% age 40-49 and 5% age 50+

-Ethnicity: Māori 20%; Pasifika 7%; Asian 9%; NZ European 62%; Other 20%

-Gender: female 97%; male 2%; another gender 1%.

In the year to 1 September 2021, Family Planning provided over 20,000 consultations to young people between the ages of 16-19 which is about 20% of the more than 120,000 consultations provided in the same year.

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