Family planning services

Information

Advice on contraception and prescriptions for contraceptive drugs and devices are provided by GPs, voluntary organisations and specialist private family planning clinics. The Crisis Pregnancy Programme provides the website thinkcontraception.ie for information about contraceptive options and services.

Rules

If you have a medical card, you are entitled to free GP services including contraceptive advice and prescriptions for contraceptive drugs and devices. If you do not have a medical card, the costs of contraceptive drugs and devices may be included in the subsidy arrangements for prescribed drugs and medicines.

Voluntary and private family planning clinics also provide contraceptive services. The voluntary providers usually have charges but may waive them or have lower fees in certain cases.

Age

There is no set minimum age in Ireland at which contraceptive advice and prescriptions may be provided. The age of consent to sexual activity is 17 and it may be a criminal offence to have sex with a person under the age of 17. This means that providers of contraceptive services are entitled to refuse to provide those services to people under 17. In general the age of consent for health services purposes is 16.

Surgical procedures

The decision to have a sterilisation operation for family planning purposes is a matter for the patient in consultation with their doctor or specialist.

Your entitlement to free services is the same as for public hospital services generally. These procedures are also available in some private hospitals, where the full cost is payable.

Crisis pregnancies

A crisis pregnancy is an unplanned pregnancy that represents a personal crisis for the pregnant woman.

The Crisis Pregnancy Programme aims to reduce the number of crisis pregnancies by the provision of education, advice and contraceptive services.

It also funds crisis pregnancy counselling services. Information about these services is available at positiveoptions.ie.

Abortion

Abortion is illegal in Ireland except where there is a real and substantial risk to the life of the mother. This includes a risk arising from a threat of suicide. The Protection of Life During Pregnancy Act 2013 sets out the law in this area and the Department of Health has issued guidelines for health professionals.

Women in Ireland may not be prevented from travelling abroad to get an abortion. It is lawful to provide information about abortion abroad, subject to strict conditions. It is not lawful to encourage or advocate an abortion in individual circumstances.
Page edited: 1 April 2015