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Friday 22 March 2019

Clampdown on 'rent-a-womb' surrogacy under new regulations

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Mark O'Regan

Childless Irish couples using 'rent-a-womb' surrogates overseas are to face a major legal clampdown, the Sunday Independent has learned.

In a landmark development, tough new guidelines will, for the first time, regulate a number of highly contentious fertility procedures in Ireland.

These range from embryo implantation to stem cell treatment. Surrogacy - which involves a woman carrying a baby for someone who is unable to bear her own child - is not illegal in this country but remains largely unregulated.

However, there is now mounting concern that commercial surrogacy is exploiting impoverished young women in some third-world countries.

In the United States, the process can cost as much as €170,000 due to high medical and insurance costs.

In the Ukraine, surrogacy programmes start at approximately €33,000, while in India the cost is around €30,000 per child. Commercial surrogacy is illegal in many jurisdictions, including the UK, France, Germany, Italy and Spain.

According to experts, there is nothing to stop the growth of commercial surrogacy in Ireland, as a "serious legal limbo" currently exists.

In February 2015, the Irish Government approved to draft legal provisions governing fertility treatments, including surrogacy. Now, the Sunday Independent has confirmed these were finalised a few weeks ago and will form the basis of planned legislation.

There will be new restrictions on the hugely controversial 'rent-a-womb' business. However, it is understood that under the proposed legislation surrogacy will be permitted on an "altruistic basis".

These are instances where a family member or friend carries a baby for no commercial gain. Sources say the decision to restrict commercial surrogacy stems from concerns about the welfare of the child, and the potential for "financial coercion" and exploitation of vulnerable women.

It is envisaged the legislation will also establish a "mechanism" for transfer of parentage from the surrogate to the intending mother.

It is understood that where 'altruistic' surrogacy is carried out, the name of the birth mother will appear on the birth certificate in the first instance.

A transfer of parentage, that is agreed between all parties, will allow for the birth cert to be reissued in the name of the genetic parents.

However, commercial surrogacy will be made illegal.

It has also emerged high level "consultations" are currently taking place with officials from the office of the Attorney General, and other relevant departments.

Sources say the draft scheme will be further revised, if necessary, before being sent to the Minister for Health, for government approval.

In a statement, the Department of Health said it could not give a "definite timeline" for the completion of the legislation.

Another aim of the legislation will be to promote and ensure the health and safety of parents. It is also designed to protect others involved in the process, such as egg and sperm donors, as well as surrogate mothers.

Sunday Independent

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