Women should be able to access contraception directly from their local pharmacist without a prescription and without charge, the Irish Pharmacy Union (IPU) has said.
Pharmacists in Ireland already provide emergency contraception without a prescription. This has been in operation here since 2011 and has been free to medical card holders since 2017. The IPU is now proposing a scheme that would allow women to access regular contraception in the same way.
According to the IPU, improving access to regular birth control would result in more women using it, which would reduce the number of unintended pregnancies.
It noted that access to free contraception was recommended by the Oireachtas Committee on the Eighth Amendment, and it has proposed a scheme which would allow this in pharmacies.
"We know from HSE research that almost half of women would prefer to access contraception through their pharmacy. The oral contraceptive pill is one of the safest and well-studied medicines available.
"Pharmacists would undergo appropriate training on the selection and supply of the most appropriate contraception and therefore there is simply no clinical cause for concern," explained community pharmacist and IPU executive committee member, Caitriona O'Riordan.
The IPU emphasised that there is no clinical reason why contraceptives should still require a prescription. It pointed out that both the American Academy of Family Physicians and the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists support access to contraception without prescription and this is becoming increasingly available from community pharmacists across the US and Canada.
Furthermore, this has been shown to improve access to contraception and reduce unintended pregnancies.
"Providing convenient and affordable access to birth control should be a public health priority. Even the World Health Organization in its recent guidelines said that oral contraceptive pills should be made available without a prescription.
"Providing women with this choice will make it easier and more convenient to get contraception safely, meaning more women will use it, which should result in reduced rates of unintended pregnancy," Ms O'Riordan added.
Discussions on this topic are now closed.