Expert backs calls for introduction of free contraception

Dr Niall Behan says Ireland is lagging Europe when it comes to birth control

Expert backs calls for introduction of free contraception

File photo. The contraceptive pill. Image: Frank Kleefeldt/DPA/PA Images

A leading sexual health expert has backed calls for the introduction free contraception in Ireland.

Speaking on Newstalk’s Lunchtime Live, Dr Niall Behan warned that Ireland is lagging behind its European neighbours when it comes to birth control.

He said free contraception would reduce the rate of unwanted pregnancy in Ireland - as well as demand for the morning after pill:

“The most effective contraception [methods] are the long-terms methods,” he said.

“[Based] on our last survey, around 12% of women are using long-acting contraception in Ireland.

“The European norm would be much higher than that and I think the barrier to that is the initial outlay – the cost.”

Fine Gael TD Kate O'Connell has been calling for contraception and regular GP check-ups to be made available to women free.

It is believed free contraception would cost the exchequer around €92 per woman annually.

Dr Behan said there is 'compelling rationale' behind the idea – noting that a number of medical experts had spoken in favour of it during the recent Oireachtas Committee debates on the Eighth Amendment.

“What the experts said at that committee from the World Health Organisation and the other [expert medical] institutions – like the Guttmacher Institution – were saying was, ‘look the key issue around abortion is not actually whether our laws criminalise women or restrict access to abortion,’ he said.

“What is really, really important is that women have access to contraception and good sexuality education.”

According to the latest census there are almost 1.4 million female citizens aged between 14 and 50 in Ireland.

It would cost nearly €129m to provide free contraceptives to each one – however as not all would use or need them, the actual cost to the State would be far less.