The Rape Crisis Network has said the age of consent has been inappropriately brought into a conversation about contraceptive pills.

This comes following the announcement that free contraception for women aged 17-25 would be made available as part of Budget 2022.

The new measure is being introduced by the Government as part of €31 million women’s health package.

Following questions about the age range for the free contraception scheme, Junior Health Minister Mary Butler said including 16-year-olds on a scheme of free contraception to women could be open to legal challenges because the age of consent is 17.

However, Dr Cliona Sadlear, executive director of the Rape Crisis Network has said the discussion around the age of consent is getting confused with contraception.

“The age of medical consent is set at 16 and indeed it can go lower. There is a whole policy set on that. It is a detailed policy, and it is a practice that has gone on for a very long time,” she told Newstalk.

“It has stood the test of time, and it is not being challenged at the moment.

“It is the age of medical consent we are talking about here, and we need to lean on here,” she said.

“The age of sexual consent I feel has been inappropriately brought into this. I don’t believe it is a bar here because I think this is about the age of medical consent.”