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NWCI calls on Government to introduce universal contraception scheme

Published: Tuesday, October 29, 2019

The National Women’s Council of Ireland today welcomed the option of a universal State funded contraception scheme made in the Working Group on Access to Contraception report  and called on the Government to showcase their commitment to overhauling our approach to women’s healthcare.

Orla O’Connor, Director of NWCI said,

“Today’s report provides the chance for Ireland to be a world leader in the provision of contraceptive care, and gives this Government the opportunity to showcase their commitment to overhauling our approach to women’s healthcare. The report outlines three methods to increase women’s access to contraception, based on different financial investments. The report highlights ‘considerable support for the introduction of a universal fully-funded State scheme for contraception among stakeholders’. NWCI strongly urges the Government to implement Option A, the introduction of a universal, State-funded contraception scheme covering those items now available under the GMS as well as the copper coil.”

Dr Cliona Loughnane, Women’s Health Coordinator said,

“For too long, women’s healthcare needs have been overlooked, and the outcome has been a series of well-documented women’s healthcare controversies, most recently CervicalCheck. As acknowledged in the Working Group’s report today, discussions around access to contraception is also framed within the wider context of women’s health, particularly in light of the Scally Report, and his recommendation that women’s health issues be given more consistent, expert and committed attention. By providing universal contraception care, women will be able to choose the most effective contraception methods for them; will have better access to the most effective forms of contraception, likely increasing uptake of LARCs; and will receive safe, joined-up reproductive healthcare which can reduce STIs. The report  also points to access and information barriers and a universal scheme can address these by providing women with contraceptive care consultations with their GPs.”

Orla O’Connor continued,

“As is acknowledged in the report, there is a ‘gendered financial burden, with the vast majority of costs associated with contraceptive services borne by women’. While it may only be women at the margins who have difficulty affording any contraception, a much larger proportion of women are likely having difficulties accessing the most effective method, as shown in patterns of use. In this instance, cost isn’t a binary issue, whether you can or cannot afford to take contraception; it is about being able to afford the most effective method and to be able to take it consistently. Women in the midst of their reproductive years, who have very significant overheads and squeezed incomes may consider contraception – and particularly the upfront cost for LARC –beyond their means. This includes young women who may be students, women working in low income jobs facing high rents, and mothers with young children who are paying the high cost of childcare and housing.”

Orla O’Connor concluded,

“Ultimately, for Government considering this report and its recommendations, it comes down to their commitment to universal women’s health services. Women’s access to reproductive healthcare is fundamental to women’s family and life decisions and essential for women’s equality. As we move toward a universal health system, we need to also make a commitment to women’s health in terms of universal contraception.”

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