International surrogacy should be recognised in Ireland for the first time under a system of parental orders and guidelines, a special Oireachtas committee will recommend on Wednesday.
The Committee on International Surrogacy was established by the Government and given three months to make recommendations. This followed pressure from campaigners and legal experts to address the issue as part of forthcoming domestic surrogacy legislation.
Surrogacy in Ireland, whether altruistic or commercial, is unregulated. Most surrogacies are undertaken abroad through commercial arrangements, often in Ukraine but also in Canada and the US.
The committee will recommend that a parental order system should be used to transfer parentage from the surrogate to the intended parents in international surrogacies. Any arrangement would have to be legal in the country in which it takes place and all parties would have to give full and informed consent.
Sources said the committee had concluded that the surrogate mother should not be financially disadvantaged and the intending parents should be allowed to reimburse all reasonable expenses, including possibly loss of earnings.
It is understood there were discussions in recent days on this matter but one source said payments to surrogates would not be precluded when made in certain circumstances.
The detailed report will recommend that there should be a genetic connection between the child and at least one intended parent because of concerns around the sale or trafficking of children. This would not be required in domestic arrangements.
The committee will also recommend that the final transfer of parental rights should not happen until after birth because of similar concerns around exploitation. The report will say that a two-step process should instead take place. There would be an administrative process before the birth for evidence to be given to the regulatory authority and a post-birth court hearing to consider the issuing of a parental order.
The surrogate should receive independent legal advice, medical advice and counselling before the surrogacy, the cost of which should be borne by the intended parents.
Once the child reaches 12, they would be able to access a National Surrogacy Register to see all of their birth information. The committee has also recommended a system for the retrospective recognition of children already born through surrogacy.
The Oireachtas is considering an Assisted Human Reproduction (AHR) Bill via which it is hoped that the area of surrogacy can be legislated. The committee has called for international surrogacy arrangements to be recognised as part of this legislation.
There is currently no route to legal parentage for an intending mother, even if she provided the egg to the surrogate. This is because in Irish law motherhood is based on birth rather than genetics. While there is a route to guardianship for parents, this ends at 18.
The legislation, as it stands, would set up a regulatory authority in Ireland and domestic surrogacy arrangements would be pre-approved in the State. A national surrogacy register would be set up so the child would have access to all of their birth information.
A post-birth model of recognition would provide for legal parentage. The legislation would allow for altruistic surrogacy but would prohibit commercial surrogacy because of concerns in Government about exploitation.