‘Law should support couples who wish to create a family’

Shatter says new Bill will provide clarity in cases of surrogacy and gay adoption

Minister for Justice Alan Shatter speaking at the conference LGBT parenting last month. The Minister said today that new legislation would ‘enable couples, not otherwise able to become parents together, to have a pathway to parentage’. Photograph: Cyril Byrne/The Irish Times

Minister for Justice Alan Shatter speaking at the conference LGBT parenting last month. The Minister said today that new legislation would ‘enable couples, not otherwise able to become parents together, to have a pathway to parentage’. Photograph: Cyril Byrne/The Irish Times

Sat, Feb 8, 2014, 16:01

New legislation will provide legal clarity to cases where children are born through assisted reproduction and surrogacy, Minister for Justice Alan Shatter has said.

In a speech to the Family Lawyers Association of Ireland today, Mr Shatter said an increasing number of children are being born through these methods and it is “crucial that there is no uncertainty as to the parentage and guardianship of children so conceived”.

The draft Children and Family Relationships Bill, published by the Minister on January 30th, will provide a solution to cases “ending up in our courts with protracted and difficult proceedings regarding parentage and guardianship”, the Minister said.

Earlier this week, a seven judge Supreme Court reserved judgment on the State’s appeal against a decision that the genetic parents of twins born to a surrogate are entitled to be registered on their birth certificates as their legal parents.

The legal definition of motherhood is central to the appeal, as lawyers for the State claimed a child’s legal mother is the person who gives birth to them and that a child cannot have two mothers at the same time.

Under the provisions of the draft Bill, the birth mother will be the legal mother of the child in all cases, while the other parent will be determined by a genetic connection to the child or through a committed relationship with the mother, such as marriage, civil partnership or co-habitation.

The Bill also allows the surrogate mother to consent to the transfer of her parental responsibilities to the commissioning parents, one of whom must have a genetic connection to the child.

It also proposes that commercial surrogacy be prohibited, similar to the model in place in other countries such as the UK, Canada, Australia, Belgium and the Netherlands.

“I believe that the proposed approach can safeguard the welfare of the child while protecting vulnerable potential surrogates against exploitation,” Mr Shatter said.

“At the same time, these provisions will enable couples, not otherwise able to become parents together, to have a pathway to parentage… It is important that legislation should support couples who wish to create a family together.”

He said the Bill also aimed to “rectify the current anomaly in the adoption legislation preventing civil partnered couples from adopting children jointly”, by allowing people in civil partnerships to be treated the same as married couples when being assessed.

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