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'Over 25s have sex': Criticism of decision to limit free contraception scheme to young women

The roll out of free contraception to women aged between 17 and 25 was announced today.

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QUESTIONS HAVE BEEN asked in the Dáil as to why the government has opted to only roll out free contraception to women aged between 17 and 25.

In today’s Budget, it was announced that the contraceptive pill will be free of charge for women in that age cohort, but individuals will have to continue to pay the €1.50 prescription charge.

The cost of fitting and removing long-term contraception such as implants will also be free. Two GP consultations per year regarding contraception will also be free of charge for women in that age group.

However, questions have been asked about why the measure only applies to young women, with People Before Profit TD Paul Murphy telling the Dáil that “people over the age of 25 have sex” and that some also don’t want to have children.

Murphy also said it was wrong of the government to give the message that contraception is the sole responsibility of women, stating that condoms should be free also. 

Speaking to The Journal after the Budget speeches this evening, Taoiseach Micheál Martin said the move to make contraception free for women aged between 17 and 25 is a starting point.

He said the measure could “perhaps” be expanded in the future to those aged over 25.

“We can’t do everything in one budget,” he said.

Also defending the measure, Public Expenditure Minister Michael McGrath said the roll out is part of an overall women’s health strategy by government that they hope will “make a real difference”. 

He said he was “not for a moment suggesting that it will end” with the 17-25 age cohort.

“It has to start somewhere, and that is where it is starting and I think it is a pretty good start.”

Finance Minister Paschal Donohoe said the roll out of free contraception is “something we have to do in stages”. 

In 2017, the Oireachtas Eighth Amendment Committee recommended that there should be no age limit and no gender barrier, recommending a free contraception scheme for “all people that wish to avail of them within the State”.

The government set up a working group in 2019 to consider the policies and legislation around improving access to contraception. 

It was found that local access, cost, embarrassment, inconvenience and lack of knowledge were among the barriers to accessing contraception.

A recommendation was made that young woman and vulnerable groups should be prioritised for free contraception.

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Martin told The Journal that rolling out contraception to younger women first is just the government acting on the advice from the working group’s report, though he acknowledged that the government may “expand on that”.

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