Free contraception will become available for women aged 17-25 from September under The Health (Miscellaneous Provisions) (No. 2) Act 2022. A significant number of people in Ireland will benefit from this scheme as it seeks to reduce barriers that exist to accessing contraception such as education, workforce capacity, cost and accessibility.

According to the Department of Health said the plan will have a positive impact on gender equity as costs of contraception are generally faced by women, as well as those who may still be dependent on parents or guardians, or who are just above the means tested threshold for medical cards and GP visit cards.

The scheme will provide for:

  • The cost of prescription contraception.
  • The cost of fitting and/or removing various types of long-acting reversible contraception (LARCs) and the administration of contraceptive injections plus any necessary checks.
  • The cost of training and certifying additional medical professionals to fit and remove LARCs.
  • The cost of a maximum of two consultations per annum with GPs and other doctors to discuss forms of contraception suitable for individual patients and to enable the prescription of the same.

A Report on the Working Group on Access to Contraception outlines how cost considerations around contraception could lead to behaviours that increase the risk of crisis pregnancies. Surveys find that 12% of women without a medical card did not fill their prescription for contraception because they could not afford it, 18.8% of oral contraception users without a medical card miss taking the pill because they could not afford the prescription and 27% of women had opt for less effective forms of contraception because of the cost of long-acting reversible contraception (LARCs).

Minister for Health, Stephen Donnelly, states that he hopes to “empower young women to discuss forms of contraception suitable for their personal circumstances and medical conditions.” He highlights that contraception is no longer only used to prevent pregnancy, but to treat a range of women’s health issues.

Currently, costs for the pill and similar repeat prescription contraceptives are estimated to be €65-€100 every six months, and the initial costs of LARCs, including consultation, purchase of the device and fitting typically range from €250-€320.

Including costs of removal, the costs rise to €340-€470.

This new legislation has been met with a positive response from the public, however, the age cut-off point has received some criticism.

“While this is definitely a step in the right direction, there is still a huge number of the population who will not avail of these new measures. Women still need contraception that is free and accessible over the age of 25, and we must continue to work towards this rather than believing we have completely solved the problem”, said Saoirse, a current UCD student.

Reporting by Assistant News Editor – Ella Waddington