Monday 24 April 2017

Couple wins legal rights over their twins born to surrogate

The couple turned to having children through a surrogate after a number of failed attempts at having children through IVF. Stock picture
The couple turned to having children through a surrogate after a number of failed attempts at having children through IVF. Stock picture

Gordon Deegan

A couple expressed their delight after the woman finally secured legal rights over two toddler twins that were born through a surrogate in India.

Outside the Family Law Court in Ennis, the woman in her 50s said "today is a very good day" after Judge Patrick Durcan made her a legal guardian of her three-and-a-half-year-old twins.

The woman also called on the Government to act now and introduce laws to regulate surrogacy in Ireland.

"Being appointed a legal guardian is an interim measure until the Government deals with the legislation around surrogacy and that can't be lost in all of this," she said.

"Today is a very good day for us, but the Government still has to deal with the situation so people like us don't have to keep going back into court to ratify our position.

"I am their mother. Today doesn't take away from that, but legally it does give me legal status to act for them if anything did happen to their father or if we were caught in a situation where consent had to be given quite quickly. I can do that now. It does mean a lot to us. It was a worry and a concern."

The woman said of the planned legislation in the area: "There is still no sign of it. They need to bring in legislation and there are many families in the same situation as ourselves."

The twin boy and girl were brought back to Ireland three-and-a-half years ago by the woman and her partner within a few weeks of them being born.

The twins were born through sperm donated by the woman's partner, while the eggs were donated by another Indian woman - not the surrogate - aged in her 20s.

The couple turned to having children through a surrogate after a number of failed attempts at having children through IVF.

There is no genetic connection between the woman and the children but her long-term partner - who is also in his 50s - is the biological father of the children.

In obtaining guardianship, the woman will legally have a duty to maintain and properly care for the children.

She will also have the right to make decisions about the children's religious and secular education, health requirements and general welfare.

"Today has alleviated our immediate concerns and worries," she said. The children's father echoed those concerns, when he said it "was a terrible situation for everyone to be in if either of the children were faced with a life threatening situation and my partner couldn't act for them".

"We are absolutely over the moon and the two are doing great. I was getting emotional inside in the court listening to the judge reading out the court order," he said.

Earlier inside court, solicitor for the two, Shíofra Hassett, said that the two have been in a happy relationship for 10 years and have been co-parenting the twins since they returned to Ireland.

Judge Durcan said that he would make the order appointing the Co Clare woman as guardian. Addressing the couple, he said: "I wish you all the best and I wish your two children all the best and happiness."

A spokeswoman at the Department of Health said: "Officials in the Department of Health are currently drafting the General Scheme of legislative provisions on assisted human reproduction (AHR) and associated research, which will include provisions relating to surrogacy."

"It is envisaged that the General Scheme will be completed by the end of June 2017. Once the General Scheme has been approved for publication by Government it will be submitted to the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Health for pre-legislative scrutiny."

Irish Independent

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