Dáil Éireann - Volume 433 - 08 July, 1993

Written Answers. - Population Crisis Centre Survey.

135. Ms McManus asked the Minister for Health if his attention has been drawn to the recent survey published by the Population Crisis Centre in Washington which ranked Ireland last among 29 developed countries in regard to access to birth control; the plans, if any, he has for the provision of a comprehensive national family service; if he intends to legislate for the wider availability of condoms; and if he will make a statement on the matter.

Minister for Health (Mr. Howlin): I am aware of the report referred to by the Deputy. I must point out that the number of births in Ireland decreased from 74,000 in 1980 to 52,690 in 1991. Therefore, the inclusion of Ireland, with countries which together add a total of 13 million people to the world's populations, is entirely inappropriate and makes the survey, in general, questionable.

I must also point out that the allegation that Ireland is a tragic example “of countries unresponsive or actively opposed to the desires of women and men for greater control over their reproductive lives” is both untrue and unfair.

This Government's policy in relation to family planning is to give individuals the greatest possible freedom with regard to family planning, that is, deciding freely the number and spacing of their children. The family planning legislation enacted in 1992 requires health boards to ensure that a family planning service comprising a comprehensive service for the provision of information, instruction and consultation in relation to methods of family planning is available in their areas. There [1928] is, in fact, a wide network of family planning services available throughout the country, some of which are funded by the Department of Health, through the health boards.

As regards the Deputy's inquiry about legislating for the wider availability of condoms, she will be aware that the Health (Family Planning) (Amendment) Bill 1993, which removed the restrictions on the supply of condoms, was passed by the Dáil and Seanad during the month of June.

As I indicated during the Oireachtas debates on the legislation, I am currently reviewing family planning policy in the context of the National Health Strategy which is being developed in the Department of Health.