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Not legislating for surrogacy is 'simply kicking the can down the road'

The Medical Director of Sims IVF says removing surrogacy from the Child and Family Relationships Bill is a lost opportunity.

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THE REMOVAL OF surrogacy from the Child and Family Relationships Bill is the another case of “kicking the can down the road” according to the Medical Director of the Sims IVF Clininc in Dublin, David Walsh.

Yesterday, Frances Fitzgerald, Minister for Justice and Equality, announced that the revised General Scheme of the Children and Family Relationships Bill has been approved by Government.

However, the issue of surrogacy has been dropped from the Bill. Why? The minister said:

I have decided to remove surrogacy from the General Scheme at this stage firstly because the Supreme Court decision on this issue is pending and secondly because there are very critical issues needing to be resolved, relating for example to how our law deals with commercial surrogacies and to the rights of children born through surrogacies. More policy work and consultation is needed on these areas.

Irish solution

Speaking to TheJournal.ie, Walsh said it is another classic case of an Irish solution to an Irish problem – “simply export it,” he said.

“Leaving surrogacy out of the Bill is a terrible lost opportunity and forces couples to travel abroad to countries like India to access the service”, he said.

“Surrogacy is the most natural thing in the world and used by couples for a number of reasons. We can have the case where a woman has had to have a hysterectomy and her sister could act as a surrogate for her with the woman’s husband’s sperm. A simple modification could be made on the birth certificate. I don’t see what the problem is?” he said, stating it would have been easy to include the banning of commercial payments for the service in law.

Political leadership

“It was an opportunity to show real political leadership on the issue, but instead it is passing the buck between the Supreme Court and the Government, and again, the patient is left stranded while there is a lack of political will to act,” said Walsh.

He said that there is strict regulation of IVF clinics and had surrogacy been included in the Bill, it would have to be the same. He said Sims IVF clinic could have made an application to the Irish Medical Board to provide a surrogacy service, similarly in how they have to to obtain a licence to operate an IVF service.

“The minister should have really shown some real political leadership on this, but it’s just another can kicked down the road.”

Speaking to Fiona McPhillips of Pomegranate - a charity that provides help for those suffering from infertility, she said the Government should be legislating for surrogacy and not waiting on the courts to.

She said if the delay meant that something on the issue would be done in a month or two then she would welcome the further consultations, which the minister said is needed, but McPhillips says she believes it is a “political decision, not a practical one” removing it from the Bill.

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Political hot potato

“It is a political hot potato,” she said, adding, “we need legal clarity on these issues. The Commission on Assited Reproduction made their report in 2005 and nothing has been done since,” she said.

McPhillips said that surrogacy is not an issue that impacts on just a few people.

This is not just about the odd couple here or there that end up on an RTÉ documentary. Just go on to forums like Rollercoster.ie and look at the amount of couples talking about their experiences of having to travel abroad to places like India for a surrogacy service.Then there is a whole legal issue about the father, and the woman has to apply to the Irish courts to the be the legal guardian of the child, the whole process is a mess.

“The Government have to realise that this issue isn’t just going to go away,” said McPhillips, who said that many couples now consider it an option.

“When couples start off on IVF, many of them say ‘oh, I would never do this or that’ but after six or seven years of nothing happening couples naturally look to the next step they can take. We need legislation to support these couples,” she said.

The Department of Justice said in a statement to TheJournal.ie that the issues outlined by the minister require a considerable amount of consultation and consideration and that it is not possible at this time to set out a definitive timeline for surrogacy legislation.

Read: Here’s what surrogacy legislation was proposed in the Child and Family Relationships Bill>>

Read: New bill will “recognise different family forms”>

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