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Free contraception to be made available for young women

Two GP appointments per year relating to contraception will also be free.

Image: Shutterstock/Image Point Fr

THE IRISH PHARMACY Union (IPU) has welcomed the Government’s decision to roll out free contraception for women from next August but said the contraceptive pill must be made available to women without the need for a prescription.

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.

The Journal reported last week that Health Minister Stephen Donnelly had been battling in Budget negotiations to ensure funding for free contraceptive distribution to women aged 17 to 25 would be made available.

Announcing the measure, Minister for Public Expenditure Michael McGrath said it was part of a “dedicated women’s health package” worth €31 million.

“This will include access to free contraception for women aged 17 to 25 from next August;  further investment in measures identified by the Women’s Health Taskforce; progress regarding the Period Poverty Implementation Group; additional funding for sexual assault treatment units and the implementation of the National Maternity Strategy and the gynaecology model of care,” he said.

Speaking following the announcement of Budget 2022, pharmacist and IPU President Dermot Twomey said, “Pharmacies have campaigned for the introduction of free contraception for many years. We welcome that this will now commence, initially providing access to women aged 17 to 25.

“However, it is essential that this service is available directly from pharmacies and without a requirement for prescriptions. Enhancing access in this way would improve uptake and eliminate GP visits that there is no clinical need for.” 

Key priority

Speaking to RTÉ two weeks ago, Donnelly said “a big priority for me is women’s health care. For example, next year, I want to see the rollout of funding free contraception”.

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The rollout of free contraception is a key promise in the Programme for Government when it comes to women’s health. Former Health Minister Simon Harris had planned to deliver it in 2019, but the rollout never came to fruition.

A government working group in 2019 considered policies and legislation around improving access to contraception after the Oireachtas Committee on the Eighth Amendment recommended free contraception be rolled out.

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

It highlighted that young woman and vulnerable groups should be prioritised when giving free contraception.

Additional reporting by Ian Curran

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