ColumnistsVogue Williams

We need a plan to protect women

Heather Keating
Heather Keating

Heather Keating, a 24-year-old girl from Tipperary is recovering from cervical cancer.

She was diagnosed with the disease a year before she was eligible for a smear test, which currently sits at the age of 25 in Ireland.

I find the age limit for a smear test in Ireland completely ridiculous – it should be much lower.

I have been getting smears since the age of 18, because I could do so  free while going to university in Aberdeen.

Had they not been available free, I probably wouldn’t have had one. At that age you don’t have a lot of money and spending it on a smear test would not have been at the top of my priority list.

It turns out that I had irregular cells, so I need a smear every year to keep an eye on things and make sure it doesn’t turn into anything worse.

I would never have known this was the case until seven years later if I had been living in Ireland.

My most recent smear was in Ireland and they told me to come back again in three years. I think that’s too long a gap, so I will get another one over in London in the meantime.

A lot needs to be revised within our health system in Ireland. I think women forget the importance of a smear test and although it’s not the most comfortable thing in the world, it’s so important to regularly have one.

While on the topic of women’s health, here’s another thing that really annoys me about our health system.

Young girls looking for contraception are being met with a €50 fee from the doctor for a prescription and then a further €15 a month for the pill.

Again, this is free in the U.K., which makes sense, as a lot of young people who want to be on the pill can’t because of the cost of it.


The pill is one of the cheaper options – the bar will cost you upwards of €200 and the coil can cost upwards of €300, that’s a lot of money for anyone, not just a jobless teenager. Again, keep in mind that these are all free in the U.K.

I have written about my feelings on abortion in Ireland and although for now it is not legal over here, I’m hoping that will change.

If we live in a country that doesn’t allow abortions, why is our accessibility to contraception so bad?