Clinic plans Irish surrogacy service under new laws
Women will act as surrogates for infertile sisters or friends - medic
A leading fertility clinic said it will set up a surrogacy service in Ireland when it is properly regulated as promised by Health Minister Leo Varadkar.
Dr David Walsh of the SIMS clinic in Dublin said he believed there are sisters or friends who will be a surrogate mother for a woman who cannot have a child herself.
"We will definitely apply for a licence once a proper legal framework is in place. There are women who will carry those pregnancies for altruistic reasons for their sisters or friends."
There are around 30 to 50 women a year who need surrogacy, he said in response to Mr Varadkar's announcement on the broad proposals which will underpin the first legislation to regulate fertility treatments in this country.
However, the Heads of the Bill have yet to be drawn up and there will be no legislation before next year's election. It is planned to conduct widespread consultation with all parties in advance.
Mr Varadkar said surrogacy will be regulated but it will not allow for commercial surrogacy where the woman who carries a child is paid. Questioned yesterday on what would happen to the increasing number of couples availing of commercial surrogacy abroad, he said they will not be subject to penalties.
Family law solicitor Marian Campbell, who acts for several couples who use surrogacy services abroad, said the proposals at this point are very vague and more detail is needed.
She said the vast majority of surrogacies for Irish couples are being carried out in India and the United States as well as in Ukraine. "I have seen a huge increase in inquiries, around four or five couples a month."
If parents go to India, they must comply with emergency travel guidelines when the baby is born and make legal applications when they return.
But babies born in the United States are given a passport and are coming in here under the radar with no record they were born through surrogacy, she pointed out.
A spokesman for the minister said the proposed legislation on surrogacy will obviously only apply to the Republic of Ireland.
He said the main issue is that all fertility treatments currently are unregulated in Ireland and there are genuine concerns that it could become an international centre for commercial surrogacy, unless action is taken. Action should have been taken a long time ago but the process is now under way.
"It's still early in the process as the outline proposals of the bill are only now being drafted. However, there will be an extensive public consultation process involving both the Department of Health and the Oireachtas Health Committee, before the final bill is drafted. So there is plenty of time for people to make their views and suggestions known.
"It's important to note that surrogacy is not the norm across Europe.
"It is banned in most EU countries and is only permitted in three or four other jurisdictions in Europe.
"However, it will continue to be permitted in Ireland within a legal framework which protects the interests of potential children."
Mr Varadkar said the proposed legislation will also cover other areas of fertility treatment and the services will be available to people irrespective of gender, marital status or sexual orientation subject to the welfare of any future children.
Standard practice for suitable candidates should include the transfer of one embryo into a woman's womb, with the aim of minimising the risks associated with multiple births. A limit will be placed on the number of families to which sperm or eggs from the same donor can be donated.
Embryos can be donated to other individuals to enable them to have a child, or can be donated for research. Couples cannot select gender for non-medical reasons.