The three-month period given to the Oireachtas Committee on International Surrogacy to review and make recommendations on steps to be taken to address the problem is too short, said the government’s special rapporteur on child protection, the Professor Conor O’Mahony.
“The committee had a steep climb to get through all of this in three months,” he told the committee on Thursday.
The committee held its first meeting on April 7.
The goal of completing the committee’s work on the Assisted Human Reproduction Bill, leading to surrogacy legislation, was ‘very, very tight and is in some senses arbitrary’, the professor said. O’Mahony.
“Anything we enact is going to regulate surrogacy in Ireland for a generation,” he said, “so I would be of the opinion that it would be much better if it took another six months, or 12 months if necessary, to get it right.”
He “would rather see this bill come back next year than be enacted in its current form.”
Earlier, Professor O’Mahony criticized a concept paper presented to the Committee on April 7 by officials from the Ministries of Health, Justice and Children. He raised concerns about recommendations he made in a December 2020 report, titled A Review of Children’s Rights and Best Interests in the Context of Donor-Assisted Human Reproduction and Surrogacy in Irish Law.
It was “a bit unfortunate that the three government departments did not contact me after my report was submitted to raise these concerns and give them an opportunity to be further discussed and addressed,” he said. .
It was also “regrettable” that the discussion paper had not been provided to him before the April 7 hearing, as it prevented him from addressing its contents at the same hearing.
Officials’ concerns about his recommendations were “based on an incomplete understanding of the recommendations and the associated legal landscape, and are plagued by logical inconsistencies,” he said.
His “well-considered view” was that the discussion paper had provided no compelling reason to reject the recommendations in his 2020 report. He remained “strongly convinced” that the government’s proposals would result in legislation “contrary to commitments of Ireland regarding the right to family life, the right to identity, the best interests principle and the principle of non-discrimination”.
The Children’s Ombudsman, Dr Niall Muldoon, told the committee that his office was of the view that the Assisted Human Reproduction Bill “as it stands does not sufficiently take into account the rights of the child and that a number of issues need further consideration to ensure the Bill is child-centred and rights-based”.
He expressed concern “about the lack of provision in the bill for children born through international surrogacy and the silence in the bill regarding children already born from a domestic surrogacy arrangement or international”.
Excluding an acknowledgment of “the relationship between a child born through international surrogacy and its intended parents will have immediate and serious consequences for the child, and is contrary to the CRC [UN Convention on the Rights of the Child] and the European Convention on Human Rights,” he said.
Her office recommended “that the bill explicitly provide that all decisions made in relation to a surrogacy arrangement that affect the child must take into account the best interests of the child as a primary consideration.”
They welcomed the provisions of the bill “for the registration of information relating to the origins of children born through domestic surrogacy on a national surrogacy register and that it allows children between the ages of 16 and 17 to ask for this information,” he said.