Minister for Health Simon Harris TD has today published the Report of the Working Group on Access to Contraception.
The Minister established the Group earlier this year to consider the policy, regulatory and legislative issues relating to enhanced access to contraception, following the recommendation of the Joint Committee on the Eighth Amendment.
Publishing the report, the Minister said:
The Minister acknowledged that the cost to the state of introducing a free contraception scheme would be significant and welcomed the report’s consideration of other options to reduce the costs involved in accessing contraception.
Minister Harris said:
The Minister thanked the Group for their work and expressed his appreciation to all those who had taken part in the public consultation, particularly the expert stakeholders who had taken the time to provide very detailed and helpful submissions as part of the engagement process.
The Working Group was established in April 2019 and consisted of officials from relevant policy areas within the Department of Health.
The Group’s remit was to consider the range of policy, regulatory and legislative issues arising in relation to improving access to contraception.
The report draws on the outcome of stakeholder engagement and a review of research literature to focus on the barriers that exist to accessing contraception and the mechanisms available to overcome those barriers.
Some key messages in the report are as follows:
The costs of providing a State funded scheme (based on the existing GMS service) to women aged 16-44 is estimated at €80-€100 million. There is potential for some savings in relation to the avoidance of unplanned or crisis pregnancy, but it is unlikely that a universal scheme at no cost to users could be justified from a cost-benefit perspective given the opportunity cost and the likelihood that much of any spending would simply displace or substitute private expenditure without any healthcare gain.
The justification for any scheme would therefore have to rest on social or societal considerations rather than economic ones.
The report concludes by presenting policy options for consideration and by highlighting the need for further analysis and appraisal.