Minister for Health announces that free contraception is now available for 17-30-year-olds
Published on: 01 September 2023
The Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly has today announced the expansion of the free contraception scheme to include women aged 27 to 30 years.
The free contraception scheme is open to women, girls and other people identifying as transgender or non-binary who are ordinarily resident in Ireland and for whom prescription contraception is deemed suitable by their doctors.
The scheme, which was launched in September 2022 for those aged 17-25, was expanded to include 26 year-olds on 1 January 2023. It is now being made available to all women aged 17-30 inclusive.
Minister Donnelly said:
"I am delighted to announce the expansion of the free contraception scheme to those aged 27 - 30 years. Ireland has come a long way in terms of the supports it offers for sexual and reproductive health and rights, gender equity and family planning. Increasing access to free contraception through the free contraception scheme and the National Condom Distribution Service (NCDS) is therefore a key priority for this government, supporting positive sexual health and choice in family planning.
"In the context of the current cost-of-living crisis, given that the higher costs of prescription contraception are typically faced by women, the scheme impacts positively on gender equity, reducing costs for women, their partners and families.
"Women’s health continues to be a top priority for myself and this government; today’s expansion further demonstrates our commitments to expand access to contraception and to fulfil the ancillary recommendations made by the Joint Committee on the Eighth Amendment of the Constitution."
The scheme covers the cost of consultations with GPs, family planning, student health and primary care centres and prescriptions for the wide range of contraceptive options available on the Health Service Executive (HSE) Re-Imbursement List. These options include long-acting reversible contraception (LARCs). LARCS include injections, implants and hormonal and copper intra-uterine devices and systems (coils). The scheme also includes emergency contraception in addition to the oral contraceptive Pill, patch and ring. LARC fittings, removals, injections and checks are also free of charge under the scheme.
Prescriptions are dispensed at a local pharmacy of choice. If LARCs are chosen (for example: coils and implants), patients return to a service provider participating in the scheme to have the device fitted, and subsequently removed. All of these costs are fully covered by the State and are free of charge to the patient.
In addition to its primary use, hormonal contraception also plays a key role in treating adverse symptoms, such as pain and heavy bleeding, that can be associated with periods.
Almost 2,400 GPs and 1,950 pharmacies have signed up to provide services and products under the scheme to date. Approximately €31.5 million was allocated to support the scheme in 2023.
Further information regarding both free prescription contraception and the National Condom Distribution Service is available through the HSE’s Sexual Wellbeing website. This information is regularly updated and provides full details of how to access the scheme.
For eligible women, the free contraception scheme provides for:
- the cost of prescription contraception
- the cost of consultations with GPs and other relevant medical professionals to discuss contraceptive options with eligible patients and to provide prescriptions for these
- the cost of fitting and/or removal of various types of LARCs) plus any necessary checks, by medical professionals certified to fit/remove LARCs (for example: intrauterine devices (IUD), systems (IUS), coils and implants)
- the cost of providing the wide range of contraceptive options currently available to General Medical Services (GMS) medical card holders, which will also be available through this scheme, including contraceptive injections, implants, Intrauterine System (IUS) and Intrauterine Device (IUDs), the contraceptive patch and ring, and various forms of oral contraceptive pill, including emergency contraception
- the cost of training and certifying additional GPs and other medical professionals to fit, check and remove LARCs
From 1 September 2023, women who are ordinarily resident in Ireland and aged from their 17th birthday until the day before their 31st birthday will be eligible for free contraception under the scheme.
Women who have had coils, IUDs, IUSs or implants inserted under the scheme will remain eligible for the subsequent checks and free removal of any devices inserted before their 31st birthday, in order to ensure continuity of care.
The National Condom Distribution Scheme supports both Sexually Transmitted Infection (STI) prevention and accessible contraception for men and their partners. Free condoms can be accessed through the national network of STI clinics, participating charities and Non-Governmental Organisation (NGO) partners and on participating third level campuses.