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Are There Unmet Family Planning Needs in Europe?

Erik Klijzing
Family Planning Perspectives
Vol. 32, No. 2 (Mar. - Apr., 2000), pp. 74-81+88
Published by: Guttmacher Institute
DOI: 10.2307/2648215
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/2648215
Page Count: 9
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Are There Unmet Family Planning Needs in Europe?
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Abstract

Context: The measurement of unmet need for family planning-the discrepancy between individuals' sexual and contraceptive behavior and their stated fertility preferences-has generally focused on developing countries. There has so far been little effort to measure how low unmet family planning needs can go in more developed countries, where contraceptive practice is supposedly (nearly) perfect. Methods: Data were taken from Fertility and Family Surveys (FFS) conducted in recent years in selected member states of the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe, and minimum and maximum estimates of unmet need were calculated for 10 countries with the requisite data. Results: The proportion of individuals with an unmet need for family planning (i.e., who have a current unwanted pregnancy or who are fecund, are sexually active, want no more births but are not using contraceptives) is as low as 3% in two European countries and below 10% in most. However, levels of unmet need in countries with economies in transition (13% in Latvia and Lithuania and 23% in Bulgaria) surpass some of the lowest levels observed for developing countries. Considerable within-country variations are seen. For instance, unmet need is more prominent among men than among women in seven of the nine countries for which there are data. Moreover, unmet need increases with family size and with age, suggesting an unmet need for limiting rather than for spacing births. In all of the countries except Hungary, unmet need is higher among those in marital unions than among those in less formal relationships. Level of education is another important dimension of unmet need, with less-educated respondents having the highest level of unmet need in nine of the 10 countries. Multivariate analyses confirm most of these results. Moreover, there is a clear association between unmet need and abortion ratios: Where levels of unmet need are high, the number of abortions per 100 live births is also relatively high. Conclusions: Data on unmet need, supplemented with information on induced abortion and related issues, could provide countries in Europe with useful inputs for formulating and implementing responsive reproductive health policies and programs.

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