Free contraceptives to be readily available to reduce crisis pregnancies - Harris
Free condoms will be more readily available next year while other forms of contraception will be provided for women under measures aimed at reducing crisis pregnancies.
Health Minister Simon Harris said he could not outline what will be made available to women as part of the plan because it may require a legislative change before the scheme is introduced.
An expert group will be set up by the Department of Health to determine the exact type of female contraceptive to be included and examine medical points of view. It will examine long-acting reversible contraceptives.
The minister stopped short of promising tax cuts on condoms and other contraceptives, saying there were other avenues the Government will utilise to prevent crisis pregnancies.
"There are other very practical ways we can help and without getting in to VAT rates and EU rules, I think there are practical things we can do by providing directly free of charge and more access to contraception," he said.
"What we are trying to make clear to the Irish people is we want a situation where terminations are legal in this country, are safe in this country, and are ultimately rare in this country."
Culture Minister Josepha Madigan, Fine Gael's campaign co-ordinator in the upcoming referendum, said the measures will be introduced regardless of the result of next week's vote.
Sexual health education will encourage and support 'safer sex' behaviours, increase awareness of risks and promote testing, counselling and other services, Mr Harris said.
"It is a very significant investment and it has been approved and agreed with the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform and all of these measures will be rolled out.
"There are a number of details we need to work out, particularly in relation to female contraception. In terms of the most effective from a medical point of view and a variety of other points of view, that needs to be decided by the women's sexual health group I will establish."
Mr Harris also promised the Government is progressing measures to improve maternity and support services in line with the National Maternity Strategy including extra capacity in perinatal hospice care.
Education Minister Richard Bruton said schools will also play a key role in the programme. "We need to make sure that what is being taught in our schools meets the needs of young people today," he said.