Monday 16 September 2019

Demand for free contraception and 'proper funding' for maternity services in Budget

Criticism: Orla O’Connor. Picture: Caroline Quinn
Criticism: Orla O’Connor. Picture: Caroline Quinn
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Cormac McQuinn

Cormac McQuinn

Free contraception and "proper funding" for the National Maternity strategy must be included in the next Budget, the National Women's Council of Ireland (NWCI) have said.

The call comes in the organisation's pre-Budget submission entitled: 'Equality Now - Invest in Women'.

Access to free contraception was among the recommendations made by the Oireachtas Committee that examined Ireland's abortion laws prior to the repeal of the Eighth Amendment in last year's referendum.

It is simply impossible to say that we can afford tax cuts, yet we cannot tackle the affordability of childcare for all, build the necessary public housing or provide the appropriate number of refuge places for women fleeing violence. NWCI director Orla O'Connor

Dr Cliona Loughnane, the NWCI's Women’s Health Coordinator said: “We’re calling on Budget 2020 to provide free contraception for all women who need it.

She said that contraception "is typically still largely a woman’s concern, which means that it is women who are paying for it".

Ms Loughnane said that universal access would "ensure women have access to the health care required to enjoy fulfilling and healthy sexual relations; support prevention of unplanned pregnancies, reducing the need for abortion; and reduce incidence of STIs".

On maternity services, Ms Loughnane said the Budget "must contain a commitment to staffing resources to ensure the proper resourcing of the National Maternity Strategy".

She said the strategy was developed "partially in response to tragedies in our maternity services and was meant to develop quality, safe, consistent and well-resourced care in the State’s 19 maternity units".

She added: "Without proper funding, the intentions to build a more women-centred approach to maternity care... will go unrealised."

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Measures in the strategy include the establishment of a new community midwifery service to facilitate better continuity of care and better information and communication throughout the different stages of pregnancy and birth.

NWCI director Orla O'Connor also called for investment in "vital public services".

“While facing into Brexit uncertainty, with enduringly high childcare costs, and the highest rate of women homelessness in Europe, the economic decisions and political choices made in Budget 2020 will be a strong expression of our intentions as a country," she said.

"It is simply impossible to say that we can afford tax cuts, yet we cannot tackle the affordability of childcare for all, build the necessary public housing or provide the appropriate number of refuge places for women fleeing violence."

She called for the Budget to "protect the most vulnerable in society, and moreover invest in an equal future for women.”

Ms O'Connor said the Budget "needs to commit to the establishment of a Statutory Maintenance Authority to reduce the burden on mothers who parent alone to litigate for child maintenance."

READ MORE: 'We have done nothing wrong': A day in the life of a homeless family

She said that "as things stand, women are forced to secure child maintenance through the courts in an approach that is costly, complex and time consuming".

She said a new agency would be "invaluable to women who require its services" and would save the state money on legal aid and in the courts system.

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