Policies aimed at restricting surrogacy practices typically have “counterproductive results,” TDs and senators said.
Two British national and international surrogacy experts appeared before the Oireachtas Joint Committee on International Surrogacy on Wednesday and warned that the issue of ethical surrogacy needs to be addressed.
The committee had three months to make recommendations on the issue of surrogacy.
British lawyer Natalie Gamble told the committee that she had worked for 15 years with families created through British and international surrogacy. She said that involved dealing with around 1,500 families.
“In my long experience, the overwhelming majority of intended parents are conscientious and want to handle surrogacy responsibly,” she said.
“And the overwhelming majority of surrogates make an informed choice to carry a child to help someone else, never intending that child to be their own. Research over decades has shown that children of surrogacy flourish and that what matters to children is not the number or gender of their parents, but the quality of their parental bonds.
“Global surrogacy is a reality. It needs to be managed and not ignored in the hope that it will go away. International law increasingly stipulates that children born through surrogacy are entitled to recognition…”
Ms Gamble said understanding ethical surrogacy was a “complex task” that required a detailed understanding of how surrogacy works, as opposed to “simplistic categorizations”.
“Range of Approaches”
“It is naïve to portray domestic or altruistic surrogacy as totally desirable and international or commercial surrogacy as totally undesirable. There are no such clear lines,” she added. “In truth, there is a range of approaches to surrogacy everywhere involving good and bad practice. A much more helpful question is what makes surrogacy ethical and how to promote it.
At present, there are no laws governing surrogacy in Ireland. The Assisted Human Reproduction Bill is being introduced in the Oireachtas this year and aims to regulate areas such as surrogacy, IVF and other reproductive issues. The bill would allow “altruistic” surrogacy in Ireland, but ban “commercial” surrogacy.
Initially, UK law treats the surrogate – and if married, her spouse – as the child’s legal parents, even if the child was born overseas. However, UK parents can apply to the family court for a postnatal parenting order which extinguishes the status of the surrogate and makes them the legal parents.
“Before making a parenting order, the court must ensure that the parents are eligible, review the payments, ensure that the surrogate has given her free consent, and be satisfied that the order protects the well-being of the surrogate. ‘lifelong child,’ she said.
A step back
Ms Gamble said Ireland is a “step backwards” with no current system to properly recognize children as the legal children of both parents.
“Automatic recognition would be the most progressive remedy. But failing that, Ireland could adopt postnatal filiation applications, as in the United Kingdom, or even prenatal applications. Whatever the path, legal parenthood should be your first and most urgent priority.
Dr Kirsty Horsey, senior research associate at the London Women’s Clinic, said the interests of the child are of paramount importance in the UK.
“While current law states that surrogacy that takes place at the national level must be ‘altruistic’, parenting orders are not limited in this way,” she said. “Intended parents accessing international, commercial or altruistic surrogacy in foreign jurisdictions can and should still apply for a parenting order, subject to legal requirements.
“If the arrangement was commercial, the court has the power to retroactively authorize any payment made, including to the surrogate, in the best interests of the child, whose best interests are the primary consideration.”
She said incorporating a mechanism to automatically recognize legal parenthood for intended parents who travel to countries where surrogacy services “protect the best interests of women and children” can help. , by “encouraging people to seek out these destinations rather than less ethical ones”. .”
The government’s special rapporteur for children, Conor O’Mahony, previously told the committee that, in its current form, the proposed law would violate children’s rights. He said it “only deals with domestic surrogacy arrangements and makes no provision for a legal framework to deal with international surrogacy arrangements.”
“Even if domestic surrogacy is regulated, there will always be families who opt for international arrangements, whether because of the availability of surrogates or other issues,” he said. “The approach proposed in the bill amounts to keeping our heads in the sand.”