The government’s free contraception scheme has expanded to include all women aged between 17 and 30.
The initiative was first launched in September 2022 and included women up to 25 and was expanded to include women aged 26 in January 2023.
Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly has confirmed the expanded age group will cover GP consultation and prescription costs for all women, girls and people identifying as transgender or non-binary. The scheme also covers all forms of contraception including the coil, IUD and the pill.
The scheme covers the cost of the entire process. This can include consultations with any medical professionals to discuss contraception options as well as the fitting and removal of long-term contraception. All costs are covered for a range of contraception options including, implants, IUDs and coils, contraceptive injections, contraceptive patches and rings, and various forms of the contraceptive pill.
The National Women’s Council of Ireland has welcomed the news saying: “It’s really welcome that the Government are really continuing with their commitment in terms of rolling out the availability of free contraception, so now it will be available for all 17-30 year olds.”
The Irish Family Planning Association (IFPA) also praised the expansion but noted the need for further expansion. The government previously pledged that 16-year-olds would also be included in the expansion.
The IFPA highlighted this saying: “The scheme now supports the contraceptive choices of a wider cross-section of people of reproductive age. But younger teenagers and over 30s remain left out.”
“We are particularly concerned that the extension of the scheme from today does not include 16-year-olds. A clear commitment was given by government in the Budget 2023 announcement, and funding was allocated to cover this age-group within the scheme.”
They called on the government to “allocate the promised budget to expand the scheme to 16 years olds as a matter of priority” and “resolve the potential legal barriers to their access to free contraception and end the exclusion of under 17s from the scheme, before the end of this year”.
For those now included in the scheme, GPs, primary care centres and pharmacies have signed, meaning if they are already prescribed contraception they can provide their doctor with their PPS number to avail of free contraception and do not need to attend a consultation.