Words: Ellen Kenny
The National Women’s Council wants free contraception to be available to those under 16 and accessible beyond GPs.
In their post-Budget analysis, the National Women’s Council (NWC) have welcomed the new measures for free contraception, but suggested that the service be expanded to those under 16.
“Enabling universal access to free and accessible contraception is fundamental to reproductive health and
rights and critical for achieving gender equality, reducing poverty, protecting against adverse health
conditions and prevention of unplanned pregnancies,” the analysis stated.
“Future budgets must continue this commitment to a phased roll out with further investment to remove the cost barrier across the age range.”
Budget 2022 granted free contraception to women aged between 17 and 25, while Budget expanded this to include women aged between 16 and 30. All contraception, including the morning after pill and birth control, is free to women between 16 and 30 who have a PPS number. Condoms are not available through the scheme.
According to the NWC, free contraception is essential for women of all ages, particularly for teenagers to prevent crisis pregnancy. The current age of consent is 17, but according to the NWC, “there are teenagers who have sex even though they are below the age of consent, so then it is an important public health measure to prevent crisis pregnancies.”
An NWC spokeswoman also said free contraception should be “universally available”, as women of any age can medical conditions, such as endometriosis or polycystic ovary syndrome which require contraception to treat.
The NWC has also urged the expansion of the scheme so that it is available beyond GPs. Right now, women between 16 and 30 can only access free contraception with a prescription from a GP who has opted into the scheme.
“Pharmacist access is already a feature of women’s contraceptive care in the US and Canada,” the NWC said, “It is also vital that the scheme is available in all maternity hospitals, not just GP surgeries, so that all women can access contraception as part of post-abortion or postnatal care.”
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