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Leo Varadkar promises legislation on surrogacy and egg and sperm donation

The family in this case has said it is “very disappointed but every hopeful”.

Image: Baby via Shutterstock

THE FAMILY INVOLVED in today’s Supreme Court ruling on surrogacy has said they are “very disappointed” but “ever hopeful” that the Oireachtas will legislate for their situation.

In its judgement, the top court sided with the State who argued that only the birth mother, and not the genetic mother, should appear on the birth certificate.

Speaking outside the Four Courts this morning, solicitors for the sisters involved urged lawmakers to bring in new laws to deal with surrogacy.

“Surrogacy is happening. Here in this country and internationally,” said solicitor Marian Campbell.

“Children are being very exposed because there is no legal framework in place in this country to cover their rights.”

She also told reporters that there are a number of families in very similar circumstances.

These aren’t the only family involved in this particular type of case.

In a statement this afternoon, Health Minister Leo Varadkar has committed to preparing new laws.

He said that legislation on assisted human reproduction, surrogacy and gamete donation is “long overdue”.

The Fine Gael TD said he will work with Justice Minister France Fitzgerald and others to prepare an Assisted Reproduction Bill, a memorandum for which will be brought to government by the end of the year.

“It is likely to deal with the issues of legal parentage, surrogacy, egg and sperm donation, and other related issues,” Varadkar outlined.

Our prime concern here is that any law protects, promotes and ensures the health and safety of parents, others involved in the process such as donors and surrogate mothers, and most importantly, the children who will be born as a result of assisted reproduction.

***

The case heard today was brought by the genetic mother of twins whose sister gave birth to them as a surrogate. She sought to be named as mother on the children’s birth certs but the State insisted that only the woman who gives birth to a child can be recognised.

In this case the woman who gave birth to the children is the sister of their genetic mother – and both consent to having the genetic mother recognised on the children’s birth certificate.

The High Court ruled last year that genetics can indeed be used to determine maternity just as it can paternity. That judgement was overruled today.

The Chief Justice said it was the job of the Oireachtas to legislate for situations that arise from surrogacy arrangements. Another of the judges said it was not up to the court to come up with a “golden rule”, a sentiment which Campbell agrees with.

“He’s correct. It’s a matter for the legislation at this stage. They need to get their act in order.”

Despite the everlasting hope, there is also concerns at the length of time legislation may take.

“These children are getting older and they need their legal status corrected,” she said.

***

Surrogacy had originally been provided for in the Child & Family Relationships Bill but was pulled to allow this case go through the appeal process.

Speaking today, Minister Fitzgerald said the State had to appeal the case as it would have “fettered the Oireachtas in terms of what provisions it could make by law in those areas in the future”.

“If Judge Abbott’s ruling had been allowed to stand, hundreds of women who have given birth to children using donated eggs would have doubt cast on their status as their children’s mother,” she explained. “Those women and their children now have legal certainty.”

Fitzgerald also said that the ruling reminds us that more and more children are being born into “atypical situations”. She claimed it is a priority of government to ensure those children can be secure in their parentage and guardianship.

The Minister also expressed her sympathy to the family involved in today’s case, adding that she knows the ruling must be “very difficult ” for them.

“I am very sympathetic to the truly human circumstances at the heart of this case,” she said.

Reporting by Nicky Ryan 

Read: Supreme Court says only the birth mother – not genetic mother – can appear on birth cert

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