The report of the Working Group on Access to Contraception was released today. The report follows the commitment made by Minister for Health Simon Harris to make contraception free for everyone–men, women, nonbinary–by 2021. According to the report’s estimates this will cost €80-€100 million per year. While that amount might seem like a lot of money, the funds will be well spent.
The report notes:
“An economic rationale for a universal contraception programme has been advanced on the grounds that it has the potential to reduce the future burden of costs associated with unplanned or crisis pregnancies (including terminations).”
So, I hope that this reality will compel anti-choice zealots to support free contraception. Every reputable study of which I am aware–and I wrote my dissertation on rape, so I’m aware of many studies–demonstrates that the best way to prevent abortions is to increase access to contraception and information about how to use it. The most effective types of contraception are vasectomy, IUD, and implants, because they do not require people to remember to take a pill every day or put on a prophylactic in the heat of desire. Plus, I know that people complain that condoms reduce sensation. Awhile ago, Bill Gates funded a competition to design a “next generation” condom, and the last I read, this was the most viable candidate–it can last for up to 1,000 thrusts (and I’m pretty sure chafing would happen first).
Failure of anti-choice activists to support this bill will demonstrate only that they have no interest in preventing abortions; but, rather, their real interest is in controlling female sexuality, keeping women chained to the stove, and slut shaming. So, which is it going to be?
I also want to make note of two items in the report that the Irish Times pointed out:
“younger women aged 17-24…are more at risk of crisis pregnancy” AND “younger men hold a more negative attitude than older men towards women carrying condoms as a precautionary measure.”
Um, say what, now? Does anyone think that possibly these two facts are related? Clearly, the Irish Times doesn’t, because the paper of record did not relate them in the article, and noted them several paragraphs apart. But, these two findings seem to be linked, without question: if young women want to avoid being slut-shamed by potential sex partners for carrying condoms, they probably don’t carry condoms, and thus lack contraception when they have sex. Young men should be well ashamed for harboring such attitudes. –Hence, the need for more sex education in secondary school.
Finally, the report also vets the idea of changing the prescription requirements for oral contraceptives. This is an interesting idea, because it would reduce the burden involved in obtaining contraceptives. The report notes that in countries including the Netherlands and New Zealand, an initial prescription is required, but then women can access the pills over the counter (i.e., without a new prescription). In Ireland, as the law currently stands, oral contraceptives are a schedule S1B drug, meaning that women need to refill the prescription every six months. The six-month barrier can be significant, and I can see reasons why a lot of women would have difficulty meeting this requirement–going to see a doctor is a burden in terms of time, and cost, too, if one needs to take time off of work in order to see a doctor. Still, there are side effects to OCPs, and open access to prescription refills might not be a great idea, either, as a person’s health circumstances change over time.