The Irish Minister for Health, Leo Varadkar, has announced there will be new draft legislation to regulate surrogacy in Ireland – five months after surrogacy provisions proposed in January last year were dropped from a Bill currently before the Oireachtas.
The proposals will form part of broader draft legislation on assisted conception to be introduced at a later date and include a simpler process for transferring parentage, as well as a ban on commercial surrogacy. There is currently no legislation regulating surrogacy in Ireland and intended mothers must adopt children born through surrogacy to become their legal parents, even if they use their own eggs.
Under the proposals, the birth mother will continue to be automatically listed on the child's birth certificate, but the courts will be able to transfer parentage to the child's genetic parents and the birth cert re-issued. The birth mother may retract her consent to transfer parentage anytime up until the point of transfer.
The proposals also include penalties for commercial surrogacy but will not disentitle the genetic child of two Irish parents the right to citizenship, even if they have used surrogacy services abroad. The fact that parents may engage in commercial surrogacy in another country is 'not the fault of the child', said Varadkar. He explained that penalties will apply to 'middle men and the agents' of commercial surrogacy.
The former Minister for Justice, Alan Shatter, said he was 'enormously confused' by the proposals, stating that similar provisions for surrogacy proposed by him previously were removed from the Children and Family Relationships Bill 2014 (reported in BioNews 740 and 773, see also BioNews 774). He told the Dáil during a debate on amendments to the Bill, 'I wish [Varadkar] would stop pretending that he is presenting some new crusade to address an issue that no one before he came along was interested in addressing.'
The new proposals, which are not expected to come in to force before the 2016 Irish general election, will cover infertility treatments and the use of stem cell treatments, as well as surrogacy. Shatter said if surrogacy legislation could not be introduced before the election, then the Children and Family Relationships Bill 2014 should be amended to include it.
The Irish Times reports that former minister of state, Lucinda Creighton, accused the Taoiseach, Enda Kenny, of 'hiding' the issue of surrogacy because he wants the same sex marriage referendum to pass.
Minister for Justice Frances Fitzgerald responded by saying that more time was needed to consider the issues raised by surrogacy. 'Issues around international commercial surrogacy are particularly difficult,' she said. 'We have not had the kind of consultation with the public on assisted human reproduction in this country that the Minister for Health now envisages will happen.'
The Irish Supreme Court has also urged for legislation in this area (see BioNews 779). It ruled in November last year that the genetic mother of twins born to a surrogate cannot be included as the children's mother on their birth certificates, saying that it was a matter for the Irish Parliament to determine. At the time Varadkar pledged to push for legislation in this area.