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Friday 15 December 2017

Children 'entitled' to know genetic parents

Legal Editor

THE Government should consider allowing children born through surrogacy to access information concerning their genetic identity, according to a pre-legislative scrutiny report published by the Oireachtas Justice Committee.

The all party committee, which held public hearings on the General Scheme of the Children and Family Relationships Bill has also called on the Government to include "traditional surrogacy" in the planned law.

The wide-ranging bill, which also addresses issues such as parentage in same sex families, is perceived as vital to smoothing the progress of the Government's planned gay marriage referendum next year.

There are no laws governing surrogacy in Ireland.

But the Government plans to regulate the issue later this year, almost 10 years after publication of the Report on the Commission on Assisted Human Reproduction (CAHR).

The Commission, in it's 2005 report, recommended that any child born through the use of donated genetic material should, on maturity, be able to identify the donors involved in their conception.

The Justice Committee report on hearings in relation to the heads of the new bill comes as the Supreme Court is set to rule on a landmark surrogacy action in which a genetic mother of twin girls wants to be recognised as their mother.

The genetic mother won her case in the High Court, but the State appealed to the Supreme Court on the basis that the birth mother is the legal mother of a child born through surrogacy.

There are two types of surrogacy, traditional and gestational.

Traditional is where the surrogate woman's own egg is fertilised with the intended father's sperm whereas gestational is where an embryo is created using IVF treatment and implanted in the surrogate's womb.

The Government's General Scheme of the Bill bans commercial surrogacy and does not at present provide for traditional surrogacy.

But the Justice Committee recommends that the definition of surrogacy should be expanded in the planned law to include traditional surrogacy.

Consideration of a child's right to identity is one of 14 recommendations made by the committee.

The General Scheme of the Bill includes proposals on a wide-range of issues including parentage; assisted human reproduction (AHR) surrogacy, guardianship, access and custody rights, mediation, DNA testing, maintenance and reform of court practices.

“The wide-ranging nature of the proposals in the Bill reflects the social change experienced by a significant proportion of families and households in Ireland over recent decades, as well as the scientific developments which have taken place in assisted human reproduction," said Fine Gael TD David Staunton, chairman of the committee.

The committee also published reports on the Criminal Justice (Community Sanctions) Bill and proposed Community Courts.

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