Labour TD Ivana Bacik has said she’d like to see the age of consent lowered to 16 and believes it’s time to have another debate on the matter.
Her comments were prompted after Fianna Fáil Minister of State Mary Butler said she agrees with the free contraception scheme starting at the age of 17 because that is the age of consent.
But Labour Senator Rebecca Moynihan slammed Minister Butler’s comments and said “the reality is that young people are having sex, and we should allow them to be as safe as possible.”
She said Minister Butler’s remarks “boggles belief” and said ” moral judgement has no place in sexual health promotion.”
Minister Butler said she wanted to “point out” the age of consent is 17 and said the State could be faced with legal challenges if they offered young girls aged 15 and 16 free contraception.
She said she was not aware of any advice from the Attorney General on the matter.
Labour TD Ivana Bacik has said Minister Butler’s comments “begs the question about the age of consent and raises questions whether they [the State] are constrained by the age of consent by extending the programme below 17 [years old].”
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Ms Bacik said it was her own “personal view” that the age of consent should be lowered to 16.
When asked if the State should make it a priority to help young girls avoid crisis teen pregnancies and extend the scheme to younger than 17, Ms Butler said: “I believe that as I’ve said that Minister Donnelly took the correct approach.
“I think we were best placed to have free contraception from the age of 17 to 25 because obviously we could be faced with legal challenges and that is the rule of law here in the country.
“I’m not aware of the advice of the Attorney General but I’m just aware as a mother of three students that the age of consent is 17 and I think Minister Donnelly got it completely right for the free contraception.”
Health Minister Stephen Donnelly said he was not aware if his Department officials had received legal advice on the matter from the Attorney General.
Minister Donnelly had said he is open to examining lowering the free contraception scheme to younger girls.
Contraception has been free in France for those aged between 15 and 18 since 2013 and for under 15s since August 2020.
Minister Donnelly said “this is just the start” and he intends to roll out the scheme “much more broadly.”
He said he decided to offer the scheme to those aged 17 and 25 years of age as this is what has been recommended to him.
Speaking to the Irish Mirror, Labour TD Ivana Bacik said Minister Butler’s comments “begs the question about the age of consent and raises questions whether they [the State] are constrained by the age of consent by extending the programme below 17.”
She said it might be time to look again at lowering the age of consent to 16 and hear expert advice on the issue.
Ms Bacik said young people can access medical procedures and advice without consent from this age.
She said she understands the State’s position on the matter of free contraception and one of her criticisms is that it should be extended to women over the age of 25.
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