'Rent-a-womb' surrogacy to be banned in months
Landmark laws will regulate fertility treatments and surrogacy
Controversial 'rent-a-womb' surrogacy for childless couples who travel overseas will be banned in a matter of months, the Sunday Independent has learned.
More than 80 children have been born abroad by surrogacy arrangements to Irish parents since 2011.
Around 75pc of the children involved were born in India, where the cost is around €30,000 per child.
It can be as high as €120,000 in the United States.
Figures are based on the number of emergency travel certificates which new parents must apply for in order to bring a baby home, depending on the country where the surrogate birth took place.
Now, in a landmark development, a set of legal guidelines governing highly contentious fertility-related issues - ranging from embryo implantation, stem cell research, and surrogacy - will finally be in place early in the new year.
It will, for the first time, regulate a number of divisive health issues in Ireland.
Surrogacy - which involves a woman carrying a baby for someone who is unable to carry their own child - is not illegal in this country, but remains largely unregulated.
However, there is mounting concern that 'commercial surrogacy' - dubbed rent a womb - is exploiting impoverished young women in countries such as India.
At present, there is nothing to stop the growth of commercial surrogacy in Ireland, as a "serious legal limbo" currently exists, according to experts.
In February 2015, the Irish Government approved to draft legal provisions governing fertility treatments, including surrogacy.
In a statement, the Department of Health has now confirmed the provisions will be completed before March.
The proposals will then be submitted to the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Health and Children for pre-legislative scrutiny.
Under proposed legislation, surrogacy will be permitted on an "altruistic basis", and at least one of the intending parents will have to be genetically related to the child.
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 at first.
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.
Critics have long argued that the process "exploits" young, poorer women.
The ban also stems from growing concerns over the welfare of the children involved. There are also concerns regarding "financial coercion", and the exploitation of vulnerable women.
The 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/sperm donors and surrogate mothers), as well as children born as a result of assisted reproduction.