International surrogacy is to be regulated in Ireland as part of a bill on assisted human reproduction.
Justice Minister Helen McEntee said a fertility treatment bill will not go ahead without measures to regulate international surrogacy and give families “legal certainty and respect”.
The assurance came as a Fine Gael senator warned that mothers who have no legal right to their children are having access to their family “weaponised” against them during relationship breakdowns.
Mary Seery-Kearney, who had her own daughter through surrogacy, said she was aware of one woman who was being put under pressure to give up her family home or be denied access to her children.
International surrogacy is not regulated or legally recognised in Ireland. It means many parents who go abroad to have children with the assistance of a surrogate may have no legal relationship with their child once they return home. Mothers of children born through surrogacy have reported being questioned at airports, left in hospital car parks while their children are going through operations or even being denied the right to consent to their children’s vaccinations.
Earlier this year, a report by a special Oireachtas committee said the State regulates and recognises surrogacy, including in retrospective cases.
Ms McEntee said yesterday her department officials had met with the Department of Health and the Department of Children this week.
She said the Government was planning to amend an upcoming Assisted Human Reproduction Bill to create “legal pathways” for parents of children born through international surrogacy.
“Our very clear intention is that we will have amendments for the committee stage of the AHR bill,” the minister said.
“I have been given absolute reassurance that the AHR bill and the committee stage will not progress without those amendments. We are working on them. The intention is that we would have them as soon as possible.”
Ms McEntee said the Oireachtas committee report had set out “ethical, sensible and necessary steps” for parents who wanted to grow their families through surrogacy.
“To reassure everybody, there is an absolute commitment to ensure that we get this done,” she said. “It is a priority for me, it is a priority for this Government that families and prospective families are given the legal certainty and the respect you deserve.”
The minister’s intervention came after Ms Seery-Kearney, her party colleague, raised concerns earlier this week that the Department of Health had only committed to creating a “policy paper”.
Speaking in the Seanad on Tuesday, the mother of one said Irish children born through international surrogacy needed to be protected.
Ms Seery-Kearney said she had seen solicitors’ letters from a father of children born through surrogacy to their mother, reminding her “that they have no legal standing”.
“That if they relinquish the claim on their family home, that they may be given access to their children,” Ms Seery-Kearney said.
“So the children are weaponised because of the State’s failure to legislate for surrogacy and for children born via surrogacy.”
Last weekend, she had to fill out a Girl Guides consent form for her daughter, which described her as a “guardian”.
“She hasn’t known any other mother. She wouldn’t be conceived if it wasn’t for me, she wouldn’t be alive if it wasn’t for me,” the senator said.
She said she found it “absolutely and utterly, wholly unacceptable” that she would be regarded as anything other than her daughter’s mother.