Government to address surrogacy law by end of year

Minister for Justice says State ‘had to appeal case as it would have overturned existing law’

The Supreme Court ruled that under current law a surrogate mother should be registered as the legal mother of twins.  Photograph: Chris Maddaloni/Collins

The Supreme Court ruled that under current law a surrogate mother should be registered as the legal mother of twins. Photograph: Chris Maddaloni/Collins

 

A memo on an Assisted Reproduction Bill to deal with surrogacy will be brought to Government by the end of the year, Minister for Health Leo Varadkar has said.

Speaking following a landmark decision from the Supreme Court that the birth mother of twins born by surrogacy is their legal mother, Mr Varadkar said legislation on assisted human reproduction, surrogacy and gamete donation is long overdue.

He said he would consult with Minister for Justice Frances Fitzgerald, Government colleagues and others on the preparation of this Bill, which is “likely to deal with the issues of legal parentage, surrogacy, egg and sperm donation, and other related issues”.

“Our prime concern here is that any law protects, promotes and ensures the health and safety of parents, others involved in the process such as donors and surrogate mothers, and most importantly, the children who will be born as a result of assisted reproduction,” the Minister said.

The Supreme Court ruled, by a majority of six to one that under current law the surrogate mother, as the birth mother of the twins at the centre of the case, should be registered as their legal mother.

Chief Justice, Ms Justice Susan Denham, said the matters raised by the case were “quintessentially a matter for the Oireachtas” to address in legislation.

Earlier today, the solicitor for the couple at the centre of the judgment said the Government needed to “get their act together” and introduce legislation on surrogacy.

“Surrogacy is happening; it’s happening here in this country and its happening internationally and children are being very exposed because there is no legal framework in place to cover their rights,” Marion Campbell said.

“It’s about time that the Government saw that and brought in the necessary legislation.”

Ms Campbell said the family were very disappointed by the decision, but were grateful for the support of friends, colleagues and the barristers who worked on their case for the last five years.

She pointed out that there had been legislation on surrogacy in the pipeline as part of the Children and Family Relationships Bill, but the section on surrogacy was removed while the Government waited to hear about today’s judgment.

“This judgment is now out, so I expect them to get on board and get their act together and bring in some legislation to look after this type of situation that has arisen,” she said.

“It might be a long time coming but these children are getting older and they need their legal position corrected.”

Ms Fitzgerald welcomed the ruling but acknowledged the outcome “must be very difficult for the family involved”.

She said the State “had to appeal this case as it would have overturned our existing law” which sets the birth mother as a child’s mother and because “it would have fettered the Oireachtas in terms of what provisions it could make by law in those areas in the future”.

“If Judge Abbott’s ruling had been allowed to stand, hundreds of women who have given birth to children using donated eggs would have doubt cast on their status as their children’s mother. Those women and their children now have legal certainty.”

Ms Fitzgerald said she had noted that the Supreme Court’s comment that it should be a priority for the Government to legislate for surrogacy and to provide for families in such cases.

“Today’s judgment reminds us that more and more children are being born in atypical situations,” she said. “It is a priority that such children can be secure in terms of their parentage and guardianship.”

Catholic organisation, The Iona Institute also called for legislation following the judgment. It said laws should be introduced similar to those in France to ban surrogacy completely.

Director of the organisation David Quinn said surrogacy splits motherhood in two. and makes pregnancy and the baby the object of a contract, whether the surrogacy contract is commercial or non-commercial, written or verbal.

“The surrogate agrees to carry a baby for nine months and at the end of that time hand the baby over to the commissioning adults… pregnancy and babies should never be the object of a contract.”