Free contraception for women aged 17 to 25 is a “good start” – but the age ranges must be expanded in future budgets, according to the National Women’s Council.
The move was announced as part of a €31m “dedicated women’s health package” in Budget 2022 this afternoon.
Young women will be able to access free contraception from next August – with the pill and long-term implants available under the scheme.
On The Hard Shoulder this afternoon Alana Ryan, Women’s Health Coordinator at the National Women’s Council of Ireland (NWC) said it marks an important first step.
“We have to start somewhere and 17 to 25 is a good start but really, when we think about reproductive health justice and we think about ensuring that all women can benefit, we need to be thinking about the whole of the reproductive age range,” she said.
“It is also about embedding that key principle of choice across the board so recognising that the long-acting reversible contraceptives – your IUDs and your IUSs – those have an up-front cost of a few hundred Euros and of course there are women in those older age brackets who simply can’t afford that currently
“So really, what we would like to see is that this really positive step is built on in the coming years and we really broaden out that reproductive age range threshold.”
She said the women’s health focus in the budget was “really positive.”
“I think there is a lot there to be built on and it is really positive in terms of the dedicated focus on women’s health in today’s budget,” she said.
“That is something we have been calling for so long in the National Women’s Council and it is really affirmative now to see this dedicated focus and this real commitment to the distinct needs of women being recognised.”
Free contraception was recommended by the Oireachtas Committee on the Eighth Amendment in 2017 and is a key promise in the Programme for Government.
It called for young women and vulnerable groups to be prioritised in the rollout.