With free contraception potentially on the agenda for Budget 2022, Deputy Current Affairs Editor Natalia Karolina Gawlas looks at why this is an important reform.
Please note, as this article disects and discussess the discrepincies in responsibilites put on men and women in terms of contraception, it focuses mainly on, but not limited to, the experience of heterosexual couples.
Following the French in their revolutionary [and far too late] steps of making contraception free to women under the age of 25 (a great step, but not great enough), there has been increased talk of introducing an allowance that would make contraception free within the 2022 Budget by Health Minister, Stephen Donnelly.
Naturally, very little detail has followed the announcement. This was, of course, influenced by our neighbours, the UK and their prescription-free contraceptive pill available across pharmacies. Hopefully the Irish Healthcare system makes a rightful decision regarding this [often] one-sided emotional and financial issue.
Women worldwise understand that the fear of sex and the possibility of an unwanted pregnancy often supercede the pleasure gained from the act. A ritual of GP appointments to find contraception is a common occurrence for most women before they can even allow themselves to be sexually active. The pressure of finding suitable contraception is installed within women from a young age as we are constantly reminded of the untrustworthiness of condoms. After all, 97% effectiveness does not equate to 100%, with that being just the risk of pregnancy, nevermind other factors. The process of considering contraception is not only time consuming but filled with both health risks and leaflets the size of bed sheets in addition to it being costly and quite frankly, anxiety-filling. A hormonal balancing act occurs with most choices when choosing contraception, and sometimes, it may not even suit you. Then the process starts all over again.
Wonderful life, isn’t it ladies?
Did you know that the bar costs around €400? That is not including countless consultations that come with it. The coil could end up costing anywhere between €300 to €500 before considering the consultation process and STI tests required beforehand. The pill, being the most commonly used, is the cheapest at around €10 a month, adding up to approximately €120 a year, again, not including at least two consultations per year for one’s own safety. With all of this in mind, you can see how it calls into question any counter arguments posed, often arising from the male rebuttal around the steep price or the apparently claimed discomfort of condoms.
Let’s also not forget the cost of pregnancy tests, and emergency contraception. That’s not to mention the accompanying stress and anxiety of pregnancy scares, which if were to be converted to monetary value, would amount to a steep price. The real question becomes, who pays the price of that? Seems quite evident.
Biologically speaking, cisgender women can only get pregnant once every nine months, which doesn’t sound so bad. On the other hand, if a man wished to, he could theoretically impregnate 9 women every day for 9 months. That’s 2,430 pregnancies in that same length of time.
When E.W. Scripps remarked, “a man can do anything he wants to do in this world, at least if he wants to do it badly enough”, this certainly wasn’t what he meant. It doesn’t take a mathematical genius, or any genius in fact, to question whether we are distributing methods of birth control to the right sex.
The possibility of male birth control looks like it’ll be a long time away before it is introduced. However we should not shrug it off as too idealistic or something akin to the plot of a sci-fi blockbuster. The creation of a male pill or the equivalent of male contraception might not be as alien or as unattainable as we think. Until then, let’s increase the conversation around contraception between both men and women, and strive to fairly divy out the responsibility, both financially and emotionally. After-all, tackling an issue at its source tickles some logic.