Wednesday 18 October 2017

Coalition takes first tentative step on surrogacy law

Health Minister Leo Varadkar
Health Minister Leo Varadkar
John Downing

John Downing

HEALTH Minister Leo Varadkar will today seek government backing for the first move towards framing a new law on surrogate motherhood.

Mr Varadkar will seek Cabinet approval for officials to start drafting a general scheme, or so-called "heads" of a draft law dealing with surrogacy, assisted human reproduction and associated research.

Sources described the draft "Bill for Assisted Human Reproduction and Stem Cell Research" as aiming to bring regulation to these areas for the first time and end the legal vacuum.

The proposals follow 12 months' work by the Health Department on the issue. It will set out proposals to regulate or limit practices in the following areas:

* surrogacy;

* embryo donation;

* the screening of embryos for serious genetic diseases;

* gamete (or sperm and egg) donation;

* and associated research.

The core aims of the bill will be described as safeguarding the welfare, safety and best interests of children, bringing certainty to potential parents, and providing guidance on what should be permitted in terms of research.

But on current rates of progress on enacting draft laws, it is unclear whether it can be completed in the lifetime of the current government which expires in April 2016 at the latest.

It also clear attempt to address serious issues ahead of a referendum on same-sex marriage next May.

The issue of surrogacy was originally to be included in the Children and Family Relations Bill, the full text of which also comes before Cabinet also today for clearance. But Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald removed surrogacy and related issues from that bill and it was passed to the Health Department.

It has now emerged that government intends addressing the issue of surrogate motherhood as it arose in a complex case before the Supreme Court last year. That case centred on twins born, using genetic material from their parents, to a surrogate mother.

The Registrar of Births refused to register the genetic mother because she was not the birth mother, and said the surrogate must be registered as the legal mother.

The genetic parents successfully challenged that in the High Court, which ruled motherhood is based on genetic links. But that decision was reversed by the Supreme Court.

The Government is preparing to legislate in line with the original High Court finding.

Irish Independent

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