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Harris announces public consultation on increasing access to contraception

A working group on the matter was established by government earlier this year.

Image: Shutterstock/Studio KIWI

A PUBLIC CONSULTATION has been launched today on increasing access to contraception, Health Minister Simon Harris has announced. 

Earlier this year, Harris established a working group to consider the policy, regulatory and legislative issues relating to better access to contraception.

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

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

The public consultation will remain open until midnight on Monday 5 August and is available on the Department of Health website

“Removing barriers to contraception in a key priority for me as Minister for Health,” Harris said.

“We have begun that work through the expansion of free access to condoms this year. This allows for expanded access to the groups most at risk, and within the youth sector, including third level facilities.” 

Harris added that it is important the government hears from the public and stakeholders and allows them to have their say on the issue.

“I would encourage all those with an interest to engage with the Department’s consultation before it concludes. It is our ambition to have the working group’s report concluded by September,” Harris said. 

The responses from the consultation will inform the working group’s examination of the issue and will help the group to make appropriate recommendations to the Minister on policy options. 

The working group is examining the extent to which cost is a barrier to accessing reliable methods of contraception in Ireland. 

It is also look at whether there are other factors influencing ease of access to contraception which could be addressed. 

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Some of the areas the group is looking at also include financial barriers, legislative barriers, regulatory issues, and contractual issues. 

Current situation

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 in January 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.

With reporting by Christina Finn

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