No one should be left behind, says the Irish Family Planning Association. The Government must commit additional resources in Budget 2024 for a universal free contraception scheme
The Irish Family Planning Association (IFPA) welcomes the extension of the free contraception scheme to 27- to 30-year-olds. But the government must commit funding in Budget 2024 to extend the scheme to younger as well as older age-groups.
Commenting on the extension of the free scheme, Niall Behan, IFPA CEO, said:
“We welcome this positive sign that the Minister is committed to a phased expansion of the scheme, beyond the initial age-group.
“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.
“The government must allocate the promised budget to expand the scheme to 16-years-olds as a matter of priority. The IFPA calls on the government to 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.
“Public provision of sexual and reproductive healthcare should leave no one behind. The scheme currently excludes people who are resident in Ireland, but do not have a PPS number. This unacceptable inequity must be addressed.”
Niall Behan concluded, “The contraception scheme must be informed by the central principle of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs): leave no one behind. The United Nations will convene in September for a high-level political forum on the SDGs. Ireland will have a critical role at this summit.
“If the government is serious about gender equality and about empowering people who wish to use contraception to choose the right method for them, the free contraception scheme must be extended to everyone living in Ireland who can become pregnant.”
Notes to the editor:
About the IFPA
The IFPA is a leading provider of sexual and reproductive healthcare in Ireland. The organisation offers a comprehensive range of services including contraception, abortion care and specialist pregnancy counselling, which support reproductive choice on a not-for-profit basis. The organisation promotes the right of all people to comprehensive, specialist and affordable sexual and reproductive health information and services.
The IFPA was established in 1969 by seven volunteers who were motivated by the harmful impact of the State’s blanket ban on contraception, and it has been at the vanguard of contraception provision ever since. The organisation has campaigned for decades on access to contraception and was crucial to the success of the 1973 Supreme Court case, McGee v The Attorney General, which paved the way for contraception to become legal in Ireland.
Potential legal issue
In response to a Parliamentary Question (11 July 2023), Minister Hildegarde Naughton confirmed the proposal to expand the free contraception scheme to 16-year-olds is under consideration by the Department of Health’s Legal Unit regarding potential legal issues. Click here for further information.
The Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) Summit, September 2023
In September 2023, heads of State will gather at the United Nations (UN) Headquarters in New York during the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) for a high level political forum which includes the SDG Summit (18th and 19th). The Permanent Representatives of Ireland and Qatar to the UN are co-facilitating negotiations on the Political Declaration to be adopted at the Summit.
The Summit is followed by a high level meeting on universal health coverage, focusing on SDG 3 (good health and well-being). SDG target 3.7 is: Ensure universal access to sexual and reproductive health-care services, including for family planning, information and education, and the integration of reproductive health into national strategies and programmes.