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free contraception

Free contraception for women aged 17 to 25 to be rolled out by September

President Michael D Higgins signed the measures into law today.

FREE CONTRACEPTION FOR women aged 17 to 25 is set to be rolled out following the signing off of new legislation.

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.

President Michael D Higgins today signed the Act into law following its passage in the Dáil and Seanad with cross-party support.

The two measures are set to come into force by September.

The Department of Health has estimated that free contraception could save young women who use it hundreds of euro per year.

The scheme will cover the full cost of prescription contraception, including:

  • The cost of consultations to discuss suitable contraception options and obtain a prescription
  • The cost of 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

In a press statement, Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly said free contraception was a “cost-effective measure, reducing both crisis pregnancy and termination of pregnancy rates.

“Given that the costs of prescription contraception are typically faced by women, the scheme will impact positively on gender equity, reducing costs for women, but also benefitting their partners and families, starting with women aged 17-25.”

In 2019, a government working group considered ways to improve access to contraception after the Oireachtas Committee on the Eighth Amendment recommended the rollout of free contraception.

Its report outlined that local access, cost, embarrassment, inconvenience and lack of knowledge were barriers to accessing contraception and that young women and vulnerable groups should be prioritised for any free contraception.

Hospital fees

Donnelly said that abolishing acute in-patient hospital charges for children under 16 aimed to ease the financial burden of parents or guardians when bringing their child to hospital for in-patient care.

“In the context of current cost-of-living challenges, I am delighted to be able to introduce these two significant measures aimed at alleviating cost pressures for individuals and families when seeking to access healthcare.”

Currently, public patients, including children, are subject to a statutory public in-patient charge of €80 per night, up to a maximum of 10 nights in a 12-month period.

Medical card holders and other specified groups are exempt from these charges.

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