Senators clash over proposed surrogacy laws

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An Oireachtas committee on international surrogacy had to be suspended earlier after a row broke out among senators.

Independent Sharon Keogan has been accused of disrespecting a witness by claiming that not everyone has the right to have a child and that it is a privilege.

Senator Keogan refused to apologize for the incident and was asked to leave the meeting by Sinn Fein chairwoman MP Kathleen Funchion.

At Thursday’s hearing, the committee was told that proposed legislation to regulate surrogacy in Ireland creates a mechanism to recognize children as the legal children of both parents.

Ciara Merrigan, chair of Irish Families Through Surrogacy, said there was a “big gap” in the current proposed legislation which does not allow for a legal parent-child relationship to be established.

Appearing before the Oireachtas Joint Committee on International Surrogacy, she said Ireland had the opportunity to be “a world leader” in recognizing the rights of children born through surrogacy.

Ms Merrigan, a mother of three-year-old twins born via international surrogacy, said under current Irish law the surrogate is considered the mother of her children.

A child puts a hand on the belly of a pregnant woman.

There are no laws in the Republic to govern domestic or international surrogacy.

The Oireachtas Committee was tasked with drawing up new proposals to fill the Irish legal void.

The Assisted Human Reproduction Bill currently pending in the Oireachtas seeks to regulate surrogacy and other areas of reproduction.

This would only allow ‘altruistic’ surrogacy in Ireland.

Ms Merrigan said: ‘Under Irish law the surrogate is considered the mother of our twins, although she is not genetically related to them nor does she live in the state.

“What we can legislate are the expected guarantees and protections for the surrogate mother, the children and the intended parents.

“A big loophole in the proposed legislation means that there is no mechanism in the law to create a legal parental relationship for children born through surrogacy so that the child has a legal bond with both parents.

“We have learned from other jurisdictions about how this can be overcome.

“This is an opportunity for Ireland to be a global leader, to recognize the diverse and changing nature of modern families and to legislate appropriately.

“In fact, as it stands, our children have only one parent, their in-state father, who can provide legal protection and stability.”

Claire O’Connell, a member of the LGBT Ireland board, has warned that the bill in its current form will exclude anyone in an ongoing surrogacy arrangement, or those taking place until the start of the bill, and those that take place internationally.

“This will mainly affect couples or people with infertility, and countless male couples who want to raise a child together,” she added.

Elaine Cohalan, president of Equality for Children, which represents LGBTQ parents who conceive children through donor-assisted human reproduction, told the committee that Irish relationships and families are no longer created in “the traditional chronological order of yesterday”.

Ms Cohalan is married to his wife, Jenny, and they have a three-year-old daughter, who was conceived through assisted reproduction.

“We need a system where all parties are treated with dignity and respect, where the surrogate and intended parents receive independent legal and medical advice, freely enter into the arrangement with informed consent, receive counseling and support throughout the process,” she added. .

“When the surrogate puts her welfare and best interests at the heart of the system, has complete bodily autonomy throughout the process, assumes no legal, social or financial responsibility for the child once born and is protected and backed up throughout the process.

“Where the child has his best interest protected, has access to information about his genetic history.

“They should not be labeled, categorized or treated differently because of the method of their conception or gestation.

“Our families are families, not different.”

Meanwhile, a senator has been asked to leave the committee room after being accused of disrespecting witnesses.

Independent Senator Sharon Keogan has said Irish law should not “whitewash” or “airbrush” surrogates from the recognition process.

Ms. Cohalan urged committee members to lead the debate using respectful language around surrogacy.

“Incendiary language and the use of undefined terms do not benefit the debate,” she added.

Senator Lynn Ruane accused Ms Keogan of “categorically objecting” to the subject because of her “personal bigotry”, which Ms Keogan dismissed.

“I think you should check your Christian values.

“You’re rude and you’re cold and that’s not OK,” Ms Ruane added.

Committee chair Kathleen Funchion of Sinn Féin was forced to adjourn the meeting after Ms Keogan tried to raise comments made in a previous private session regarding one of the witnesses.

After the session resumed, Ms Keogan was asked to leave the meeting under Standing Order 113, which allows a chair to order a member to leave a meeting because of disorderly conduct.

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