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The scheme covers the full cost of prescription contraception. Shutterstock/KaryB

Free contraception scheme for women aged 17 to 25 begins today

The National Women’s Council has welcomed the move but said it’s ‘crucial’ that the age bracket is widened.

LAST UPDATE | 14 Sep 2022

A FREE CONTRACEPTION scheme for women aged 17 to 25 begins today.

President Michael D Higgins signed the Act into law in July of this year, following its passage in the Dáil and Seanad with cross-party support.

The Health (Miscellaneous Provisions) (No. 2) Act 2022 also provides for the abolition of both overnight and day case public in-patient charges for children under 16 in all public hospitals.

The scheme covers the full cost of prescription contraception, including the cost of:

  • necessary consultations with medical professionals to discuss suitable contraception options.
  • fitting and/or removal of various types of long-acting reversible contraception (LARCs), in addition to any necessary checks by medical professionals
  • providing the range of contraceptive options currently available to medical card holders, including contraceptive injections, implants, IUS and IUDs (coils), the contraceptive patch and ring and various forms of oral contraceptive pill, including emergency contraception

Speaking after the Act was signed into law in July, Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly described it as a “cost-effective measure, reducing both crisis pregnancy and termination of pregnancy rates”.

In a statement, Donnelly said that “access to free contraception was a key recommendation accompanying the Repeal of the Eighth Amendment to the Constitution and is a key element of the Women’s Health Action Plan”.

“The scheme, a vital Programme for Government commitment, puts women aged 17–25 at its centre in providing a full suite of options for them to choose which form of contraception works best for them,” he said.

“We are removing any financial barriers to the age cohort for whom such barriers are most likely to be an issue.”

First step

While the National Women’s Council has welcomed the commencement of the free contraception scheme for women aged 17 to 25, the organisation says it is “crucial” that the age bracket is widened.

Alana Ryan, NWC’s Women’s Health Coordinator called it a “ground-breaking step” that has “transformative potential” and is “key to gender equality”.

“The benefits of free contraception will be felt across society as women take control of their reproductive lives and choices,” she said.

However, she added: “Some women are sexually active before the age of 17, and long after the age of 25”.

“So it’s crucial that Government follows this excellent first step up with a widening of the age bracket in the budget at the end of the month.”

She’s added that “access to contraception is crucial for preventing a crisis pregnancy” and called on the Government to “take a holistic view of reproductive health”.

Ryan continued: “We need to ensure all women have access to the most reliable and effective forms of contraception to reduce the risk of unplanned pregnancy.

“It’s imperative that Government now keeps up the momentum and includes the next age cohort in the budget.” 

Additional reporting by Lauren Boland

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