Fianna Fáil Seanad Spokesperson on Justice, Children and Youth Affairs, Senator Lorraine Clifford-Lee has said we must examine the introduction of an Oral Contraception Scheme and other opportunities to reduce restrictions for women to access safe, effective and affordable birth control.

The Irish Pharmacy Union has recently backed the establishment of a scheme by which women in Ireland could access oral contraception from their pharmacist without a prescription and free of charge.

Senator Clifford-Lee commented, “It’s been seven years since changes were introduced that allowed for the morning after pill to be sold over the counter in Irish pharmacies.

“Women’s difficulty in accessing affordable oral contraception remains an important issue in this country and needs to be urgently addressed.

“The cost of attending a private physician or GP to obtain a prescription is all too often a barrier for women needing to access hormonal contraception. The supply of birth control over the counter would remove the unnecessary burden placed on a woman to pay for a GP visit to obtain a prescription and subsequently make it far more likely for women to take it to prevent an unwanted pregnancy.

“The oral pill is already available over the counter in more than 100 countries worldwide. Any meaningful attempt to increase the use of contraception in this country is largely dependent on making it more readily available to every woman, not just those that can afford it.

“It is clinically proven that the complications associated with the pill are uncommon although checks and balances cannot be pushed to one side entirely. The oral pill can lead to potential changes in a woman’s blood pressure and hormones and should be monitored to some degree by pharmacists whether that by questionnaire or brief examination.

“The fact is that Ireland remains in the 31% of countries internationally that continue to restrict access to the pill by prescription. We need to get progressive and explore opportunities to reduce the existing restrictions for women to access safe, effective and affordable birth control,” she concluded.