Hopeful parents will face courts under new laws on surrogacy
Couples seeking to have a child through surrogacy could be forced to go before the courts to receive permission under proposals being discussed by Government ahead of the introduction of new laws.
There is no legislation governing surrogacy, but the Department of Health is in the early stages of drafting new laws on an issue that has become a focal point of the marriage referendum debate.
The Irish Independent understands senior members of Government favour introducing measures that will require potential parents to set out their reasons for having a child through a surrogate before the court services.
The courts would take into account the child's interests and those of the mother who is proposing to carry the baby before allowing a surrogacy to take place.
"I would envisage court services around surrogacy potentially before it happens.
"It has to be in the best interest of the child," a senior Government source said.
Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald yesterday insisted new laws on surrogacy and assisted reproduction will be "very strict", and said no one will be "automatically entitled" to commission a child through a surrogate.
"There is no right to these services. There is no right to a child in adoption, there is careful vetting and very often there are court procedures involved and in this whole area it will be similar to that," Ms Fitzgerald said.
However, the minister insisted the same-sex marriage referendum has nothing to do with either surrogacy or assisted human reproduction, but rather it was about giving the marriage of gay couples constitutional recognition.
Sections of the 'No' campaign have suggested surrogacy will become more prevalent if the referendum is passed and children will not have the right to both a mother and father.
Laws on surrogacy were included in the Children and Family Relationships Bill drafted by former Justice Minister Alan Shatter. But Ms Fitzgerald removed surrogacy from the bill when she became Justice Minister as she believed the area deserved greater scrutiny and consultation. Last year, Health Minister Leo Varadkar said he would consult closely with Ms Fitzgerald ahead of preparing new legislation.
Mr Varadkar also insisted so-called "designer babies" will be banned under future legislation and surrogacy will only be allowed for altruistic reasons.
The Cabinet gave approval for the preparation of new laws in February, which are currently being examined by the Department of Health.
New legislation on surrogacy will have take into account the constitutional recognition of the mother and the recently enacted amendment to the Constitution setting out the rights of children.
A Department of Health spokesman said a comprehensive set of policy proposals in relation to the regulation of assisted human reproduction and surrogacy will be considered by the minister in due course.
"At this early stage it is not possible to speculate on any aspect of the legislation beyond that already set out by the Department," he added.