Every woman in Ireland between the ages of 17 and 25 can avail of free contraception from today.

This is not linked to having a medical card.

The scheme is designed to remove the financial burden around contraception from younger people.

Currently the cost of these prescriptions are mostly covered for medical card holders, but those without a card can pay hundreds of euro in fees and prescriptions.

The deal covers the pill and long-lasting contraception, including coil insertions and women will need to show their PPS number as eligibility will be checked.

GPs offering the service will publicise this themselves and women are advised to check with their local doctor.

The Health (Miscellaneous Provisions) (No 2) Act 2022, which provides for the free contraception scheme, was signed into law in July by President Michael D Higgins.

The GP clinical lead in women's health for the Irish College of General Practitioners and the Health Service Executive said the primary objective of the scheme is to remove cost as a barrier to contraception for younger people.

Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly said that this is the first time free contraception has been introduced for women here, adding that the history of Ireland saw a denial of women's basic reproductive rights.

Minister Donnelly pointed out that in 1935, the State banned the sale and use of contraception.

He said the scheme would cover all end-to-end costs.

Speaking on RTÉ's Morning Ireland, Dr Ciara McCarthy said the scheme will also cover emergency contraception in the form of the morning after pill, which can be provided by a GP or pharmacist.

She said the scheme will cover the costs of GP consultations and the cost of any prescriptions.

"This includes prescriptions for shorter acting items like the contraceptive pill, as well as the long acting reversible contraceptives. These are things that people would know as the contraceptive implant or hormonal coils. The fitting and removal of these items would also be covered as well, as any check ups or follow up care that would be needed."

Dr McCarthy said there was no public health reason to pick this cohort of women, but the younger age group were identified as not using contraception or using less reliable contraception.

From today, GPs, pharmacies, primary care centres, family planning centres and student health clinics will be signing contracts with the HSE to provide services under the scheme.

The Irish Family Planning Association welcomed the scheme's rollout, saying it will empower young women, enabling them to choose the contraception that works best for them.

"We know from our services that this initiative will have an enormously positive impact on the health and wellbeing of thousands of women and girls," the association's chief executive Niall Behan said.

"It is a crucial stepping-stone towards gender equality and reproductive autonomy in Ireland. We look forward to welcoming the first clients of the free contraception scheme through our clinic doors."