Government aspirations to make contraception universally available, without charge, for all women, must be made a reality in Budget 2021.
This is the view of Abortion Access Campaign West, which has made a submission to Minister for Health, Stephen Donnelly, for a provision in this month's Budget, that will introduce "a scheme for the provision of the most effective method of contraception, free of charge and having regard to personal circumstances, to all people who wish to avail of them within the State.”
"It is time the Government take the necessary measures to ensure public reproductive health through access to contraception for all," said a spokesperson for AAC West, "including those who cannot afford to pay for it. Poverty, or lack of disposable income, has an impact on contraception use."
Serious numbers of unwanted pregnancies
The group argues that publicly funded contraception can also prove to be a cost-effective public health intervention. "From the 6,666 persons availing of Irish abortion services in its first year of implementation, plus the numbers still having to travel abroad for services, are indications of a serious number of unwanted pregnancies. Abortion rates go down as the use of effective contraceptives goes up," the spokesperson continued.
As Minister for Health, Simon Harris said that he was aiming to give all women access to free contraception in 2019, and a working group on Access to Contraception was established in April 2019 to consider improving access to contraception.
'AAC West is seeking a clear commitment in Budget 2021 to ensure all persons have free access to the widest possible range of family planning methods'
The report, published October 2019, found that barriers to "accessing contraception do exist for some people, with the most prevalent obstacles identified as lack of local access, cost, embarrassment, inconvenience, and lack of knowledge". Despite this, no money allocated in Budget 2020 for a State-funded scheme for contraception in the Republic of Ireland.
Contraception and a human right to health
The group also points out that access to contraception is considered globally a key component of the human right to health, and is affirmed by the United Nations and the World Health Organization.
"Deciding when and how many children to have is a fundamental human right," said the spokesperson. "AAC West seek a clear commitment in Budget 2021 to ensure all persons have free access to the widest possible range of safe and effective family planning methods to enable them to exercise a free and informed choice, while recognizing that appropriate methods for couples and individuals vary according to their age, health, family-size preference and other factors."