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Working group to investigate how to roll out free contraception for Irish women

People with outside expertise will sit on the new group, with a chairperson to be appointed shortly.

Image: Shutterstock/areeya_ann

THE CHAIRPERSON OF a new working group on how to make contraception free for all women is to be appointed in a matter of weeks.

Health Minister Simon Harris intends to appoint a working group whose members will have outside expertise on contraception provision. 

The terms of reference for the group are currently being drafted by the Department of Health. 

Those appointed to the working group will most likely experience from a community setting, hospital expertise, and medical experience. 

The access to free contraception was a recommendation made by the Oireachtas Committee on the Eighth Amendment, and something that Simon Harris said he was hoping to introduce this year.

Free contraception 

Initial work within the department found that rolling out free contraception would involve changes to legislation. 

Minister for Health Simon Harris told TheJournal.ie last September that he was aiming to give all women access to free contraception in 2019.

“In relation to female contraception, I am determined that we address the cost issue there,” he said, adding that he has asked his department officials to work with medical experts on the matter. 

As you know a woman today who has a medical card can access contraception for free. There are two issues – the cost of the doctor’s visit, because generally women need to see a doctor on these matters, and then the actual cost of the contraception, so it is likely to require an amendment to primary legislation, but I am hoping we can make progress on that in 2019.

The new working group is set to investigate how to remove all barriers to contraception. 

Currently, women who have a medical card can access contraception for free. However, those that do not often have to pay for an initial doctor’s consultation as well as a repeat appointment every six months or so in order to get their prescription renewed. 

Women also have to pay for the pill every month or for their chosen contraceptive device, such as the implant or the coil. 

TheJournal.ie revealed last month that the minister has been lobbied by a pharmaceutical company and the pharmacy union in recent months, as plans for the promised rollout of free contraception for all women moves closer.

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