The Family Planning Act makes contraception available on prescription. But how easy is it to get contraceptives in Ireland?

The Family Planning Act (1980) provided for access to contraceptives by prescription from registered pharmacists only. The bill was first introduced by the then Minister for Social Welfare Charles Haughey in 1979 and limited the provision of contraceptives for family planning or medical reasons.

The controversial act was met with opposition from groups seeking greater access to contraceptives for all women.

A meeting at Trinity College Dublin under the title 'Conception Access For All' said that the legislation did not go far enough and campaigners demanded free access for all to contraception.

At Trinity College, the contraception campaigners gathered to pour scorn on it.

Speakers at the event argued that legislation served to increase the socio-economic divide when it comes to access to contraception and that Ireland’s laws were starkly out of touch with European neighbours.

Mother of 14 Margaret Farrelly from Ballyfermot in Dublin has children from the ages of four to 24.  Married at 16 and she and her husband started a family straight away. She describes the economic and social challenges of having a large family in a small three-bedroom house.  On the advice of GP Dr Pat Leahy,she is now on the pill.

It’s not something that you keep looking forward to having babies every year, no break for yourself.

Speaking at the Trinity College event, Dr Pat Leahy, a proponent of the use of contraceptives, is critical of the medical profession when it comes to access to contraception and describes the new law as

One of the most terrible pieces of restrictive legislation.

Dr Leahy says that he will continue to run his practice his own way. He encourages people to tell their doctors what they want and not the other way round.

I shall give contraceptives to all and sundry that I think want them and need them.

However, according to Senator Catherine McGuinness,  the legislation which was passed in the Oireachtas mainly by men requires doctors to decide who needs contraception. She believes that most young people will simply ignore the law.

The supply of contraception now depends on chemist shops.

You need a chemist who will stock the prescribed contraceptive.

Reporter Joe Little visits three chemists in the Dublin suburb of Ranelagh with a prescription in hand to check for the availability of contraceptives. However, none of the chemists stocked contraceptives.

This episode of ‘Today Tonight’ was broadcast on 6 November 1980. The reporter is Joe Little.