Officials warn against ‘double standard’ on commercial surrogacy

Committee to make recommendations on international surrogacy issues for new Bill

An options paper to be given to the new committee warns about the dangers of recognising or facilitating international commercial surrogacy arrangements. Photograph: iStock

An options paper to be given to the new committee warns about the dangers of recognising or facilitating international commercial surrogacy arrangements. Photograph: iStock

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Recognising international commercial surrogacy arrangements, where women in foreign countries receive payment to have babies for Irish parents, could be “difficult to justify”, according to an options paper drawn up by officials for a special Oireachtas committee.

The committee is to be set up shortly to make recommendations on how the law should treat international surrogacy in a new Bill that is currently before the Oireachtas.

But an options paper to be given to the new committee warns about the dangers of recognising or facilitating international commercial surrogacy arrangements.

It says: “Commercial surrogacy raises complex ethical issues and concerns about commodification of children and exploitation of surrogate mothers. These issues are heightened in international surrogacy, especially where intending parents from a wealthy country such as Ireland undertake a commercial arrangement with a surrogate mother in a poorer country, or one where the rights of women are less protected.”

Currently, there are no laws governing surrogacy in Ireland. However, a new Bill, the Assisted Human Reproduction Bill, is expected to go before the Oireachtas this year and will regulate areas such as surrogacy, IVF and other reproductive issues.

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The Bill will allow for “altruistic” surrogacy in Ireland, but will ban “commercial” surrogacy, where women undergo pregnancy and give birth to a child for a fee. Commercial surrogacy is banned in many countries, but is allowed in a small number of jurisdictions including Russia, Ukraine and some US states.

Last week the Government decided to set up a special Oireachtas committee, which will report after three months, to discuss and make recommendations on the issues related to international surrogacy and the processes for recognising the relationships between parents and children born through surrogacy.

Arrangements

Campaigners have sought to have the intending parents of children born through surrogacy arrangements recognised in Irish law. Currently, Irish law recognises the person who gives birth to the child as the mother of the child, while the route for recognition of the father is complex.

The options paper drawn up by officials to guide TDs and Senators on the committee contains a numbers of warnings about international surrogacy. It also appears to reject recommendations by the Government’s special rapporteur on children’s rights relating to the recognition of international surrogacy arrangements.

“If legislation were to be brought forward to facilitate Irish residents in undertaking commercial surrogacy arrangements outside the State, while prohibiting such arrangements in the State, this would create a double standard in terms of the protection of children and surrogate mothers,” it says.

The paper also notes that “the reality is that Irish people will continue to undertake surrogacy arrangements abroad” but says that any route to “establishing legal relationships between children born as a result of international commercial surrogacy and their intending parents should not have negative consequences for the identity rights of those children and for the rights and interests of the other persons involved, including surrogate mothers and gamete [reproductive cell] donors”.

“Requiring appropriate safeguards for the surrogate mother is not only essential for surrogate mothers but is also essential for the wellbeing of the child in later years,” it says. “From the perspective of the child, informed by historic adoption practices, it can be hugely distressing for an individual to learn of possible exploitation of a birth mother.

“If commercial surrogacy arrangements are to be prohibited in Ireland due to concerns relating to welfare of children and surrogate mothers, those concerns arise to an even greater extent in relation to commercial surrogacy arrangements undertaken outside the State.

“Providing for recognition of foreign commercial surrogacy arrangements while limiting domestic surrogacy to altruistic arrangements, thereby providing a greater standard of protection for women in Ireland than abroad, would create a double standard in Irish law which may be difficult to justify,” it says.