Surrogacy case gives mothers new legal status

Fri, Mar 8, 2013, 00:00

Up to 200 mothers of children born by surrogacy are now entitled to go to court to be named as the legal parents of their children on foot of a High Court ruling this week.

Fertility clinics are also examining plans to offer surrogacy services within Ireland, depending on whether there is an appeal to the Supreme Court.

Until this week’s ruling, most mothers of children born by surrogacy were unable to be legally recognised as their parents.

A couple successfully challenged a decision by the State that only the surrogate mother could be registered as the legal mother.

One mother who is considering taking court action is Susan Cooper, from Youghal, Co Cork, whose 18-month-old baby Alex was born through a surrogate in India.

“I’m not legally recognised as his mother. I can’t sign any official forms for him. I worry about something terrible happening to my husband. What would happen then?

“Going to court is now an option, but I think the Government needs to deal with this area urgently.”

Fertility clinics and legal sources estimate that up to 200 children in Ireland have been born by surrogacy. One US agency alone, Circle Surrogacy, said yesterday it had arranged for the birth of 25 children through surrogacy for Irish parents.

The State has less than three weeks to decide whether to appeal. Minister for Justice Alan Shatter has declined to comment, except to say he hopes to publish legislation that will address “certain aspects of the law” this year.

Legal recognition

Tony O’Connor, a senior counsel who has advised on several cases in this area, said the ruling has made it much easier for parents to get legal recognition.

“Any parent in a similar situation now has the option of going to a lower court and seeking a declaration that they are the legal parents, and are entitled to be registered as such on the register of births,” he said.

Dr David Walsh of the Sims Clinic in Dublin said it hoped to provide “altruistic” surrogacy. This involves cases where a surrogate is paid only for expenses incurred. Dr Sandra Brett of Beacon Care Fertility also said it was examining offering surrogacy services.

While there is no law against surrogacy, legal uncertainty means most clinics do not offer it. New regulations mean the Irish Medicines Board must approve any surrogacy procedures.