Friday 24 November 2017

Genetic mother now a 'legal' parent after win in landmark casen Ruling makes history n Decision complicates Coalition's agenda

Dearbhail McDonald and Tim Healy

A "SIGNIFICANT" number of mums whose children were born to surrogates are now expected to come forward to secure legal parenthood of their children, after a High Court ruling in a landmark case.

The court granted a declaration that the genetic mother is the legal mother of the twins. It granted a second declaration that the twins and their genetic parents are entitled to have their mother registered on the birth certificates.

Mr Justice Henry Abbott, of the High Court's family division, found that the married couple had not broken any civil or criminal laws and said Irish law did not make illegal any surrogacy contract.

The judge also ruled that there was nothing in Irish law that positively affirmed "mater certa semper est" – or that motherhood is always certain.

Clarity

Family law experts have told the Irish Independent other parents who availed of legal advice on surrogacy will now come forward seeking clarity in the courts.

The married couple, who cannot be identified for legal reasons, said they were "delighted" with the ruling.

The genetic parents, supported in their groundbreaking legal action by the wife's sister, said it had been "a very long, hard and emotional time" for them.

"It is to be hoped now that much-needed legislation in relation to this whole difficult area of surrogacy will be brought in and that children born by surrogacy arrangements will have their rights enshrined in such legislation," the couple said through their solicitor Marion Campbell.

The surrogacy ruling comes at a sensitive time for the Government. Weeks ahead of the publication of contentious abortion laws, Mr Justice Abbott rejected the Attorney General's argument that the 1983 pro-life amendment to the Constitution confirmed the birth mother as the legal mother.

Despite a 2005 report on assisted human reproduction (AHR), there are no laws in Ireland governing a range of sensitive reproductive issues such as surrogacy, IVF treatment and embryonic stem cells.

The Iona Institute, a conservative think tank opposed to surrogacy, called on the Government to introduce laws banning the use of surrogates.

The Departments of Justice and Health said the Government would give the ruling and its implications very careful consideration.

Justice Minister Alan Shatter is preparing a new Family Relationships and Children Bill that will address certain aspects of the law on surrogacy.

The bill will be published later this year.

In the landmark High Court action, the children and their genetic parents had sought declarations under the Status of Children Act that their genetic mother is their mother. They wanted it declared that she is entitled to be registered as such, and that the register of births should be corrected to reflect their true parentage.

The Attorney General and the Office of the An tArd Chlaraitheoir (Registrar General) had opposed the action on grounds including the surrogate or gestational mother is, in law, the mother of the child.

The children were born to the sister of a couple who could not have children. They provided the genetic material which was implanted in the surrogate.

In his ruling, Judge Abbott said after considering all the submissions made to the court, the "feasible inquiry in relation to maternity ought to be made on a genetic basis".

Editorial comment: P39 World news

Irish Independent

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