USI wants free contraceptives to be made available

Mikey Walsh

The president of the USI has called for free contraceptives.

The Union of Students in Ireland (USI) spoke out about the cost of contraceptives hindering access to means of safe sex.

The USI, which represents over 374,000 students, believes that it is imperative that contraceptives must be accessible to all who are sexually active.

Minister for Health, Simon Harris, formed a working group in March to examine the feasibility of free contraception.

Harris said: “Cost should not be a barrier to accessing contraception and I am determined to address this… this will help reduce the number of crisis pregnancies and promote good sexual health”.

The USI has welcomed Harris’ “rapid” working group and believes that all students should be able to choose the contraception suitable for them.

USI president Síona Cahill said: “What is imperative here is the ability for people to choose and be comfortable with the best methods of contraception for them, without cost as a hurdle to that decision making.”

Contraceptives are taxed as a luxury item and are taxed at a higher VAT rate with a box of 12 condoms costing up to €20.

“We are [sic] calling on the Government to look beyond just condoms and the pill with this review and to look at long-acting reversible contraception as a matter of urgency. The upfront cost to such contraception is prohibitive for students in particular. LARCs [long-acting reversible contraceptives] are effective up to 10 years depending on the method and 99 per cent effective as a safe method.” said Cahill.

The long term contraceptives are among the highest price, costing up to €300 for a LARC, while it cost between €5-€14 per month for the pill.

The USI’s SHAG campaign, supported by the HSE, distributed over 30,000 condoms with sexual health information to students across Ireland last year.

Despite this, DCU student Sinead O’Farrell said: “I don’t see how Harris plans to make them more accessible to students than they already are, considering certain contraceptives are free in every student union office”.

The rates of STI’s such as gonorrhoea, herpes and chlamydia are rising in Ireland according to figures released by the HSE earlier this year while a report from the Irish Family Planning Association in 2017 shows 24 per cent of women experienced an unplanned or crisis pregnancy.

Mikey Walsh

Image Credit: Sonja Tutty